Former NFA chiefs push policy reforms By Michael Punongbayan (The Philippine Star) | Updated February 17, 2014 - 12:00am
MANILA, Philippines - While national attention is focused on the hunt for illegal rice importers, two former chiefs of the National Food Authority (NFA) say that flawed government policy, not smuggling, poses the biggest threat to the nation’s rice industry. Anthony Abad, who served as NFA administrator from 2000 to 2002, explained yesterday that smuggling is just one of the many symptoms of a flawed system of rice regulation. Lito Banayo, who headed the agency from 2010 to 2012, warned that government’s continued monopoly of rice importation could cause NFA’s debt to balloon to as much as P190 billion. “Rice smuggling occurs because there is an unmet demand of a hungry population. Smuggling and the illicit importation of rice simply reflect a deficit in supply,” Abad said. At the Senate hearings, so-called “illegal importations” were attributed to the absence of a definitive policy on the World Trade Organization (WTO)-granted “special privilege” of quantitative restrictions (QR) on the importation of rice that had expired in June 2012. The Department of Agriculture (DA) maintained that despite its expiration, importation quotas on rice will remain in place until 2017, even as the Philippines has yet to succeed in negotiating an extension with fellow WTO member countries. But Abad believes otherwise. “When you have an agreement that is time-bound, the ‘special treatment clause’ expires upon the deadline. The Philippines is the only country left that maintains a QR,” he said. The DA and attached agency NFA have been criticized by some sectors for supposedly using QR and the issuance of import permits to maintain a “monopoly” over rice trade.
Abad agreed on what he called “outdated QR system and government rice monopoly,” only led to high prices, inefficiency, corruption, and smuggling. In a television interview, Banayo, said he was astonished at how the NFA has come to monopolize rice trade over the last year. “In the third year of this Aquino administration, 2013, I was surprised to read in the papers that it was only the NFA doing the importing, without participation from the private sector,” he said in the vernacular. Supposedly, under the 2010 Food Staples Self-sufficiency Program (FSSP), the country’s rice self-sufficiency roadmap, importation should primarily be the role of the private sector. “The private sector should be the one to import. The NFA should, little by little, remove itself from rice importation and concentrate on local procurement, which we followed for two years,” said Banayo, who was NFA administrator during the first two years of the Aquino presidency, describing the agency’s thrust under his watch. Banayo warned the NFA’s continued monopoly over rice importation, through government-togovernment transactions, is a virtual “white elephant,” which would cost the country billions in public funds. “We are going to be deep in debt. I think, at the rate it’s going, mostly from government-togovernment imports, we will reach P190 billion by the time PNoy (President Aquino’s term) ends,” Banayo said. Amid increasing prices, and if it were to be true to its mandate, Banayo reminded the NFA to concentrate on making sure there is available rice in the market and make the grain affordable. According to the Bureau of Agricultural Statistics (BAS), as of February 4, well-milled rice retails for P39.94 per kilogram, 13.33 percent higher than last year. Regular milled rice retails for P36.73 per kilogram, 14.64 percent higher than the previous year. And in order to help lower rice prices, the 2010 FSSP recommends “to allow the expiration of QR by 2012.” http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2014/02/17/1291290/former-nfa-chiefs-push-policy-reforms
SPECIAL REPORT: Agri smugglers take advantage of old laws, loopholes (Second of 3 parts) By Rudy Fernandez (The Philippine Star) | Updated February 17, 2014 - 12:00am
Read Part 1 here MANILA, Philippines - Smuggling of agricultural commodities has become widespread in recent decades because some policies and procedures in the country’s importation system have become antiquated. These statutes and practices have created loopholes that allow smugglers to operate. A study on the dynamics of smuggling of agricultural products has recommended that the issues be earnestly tackled through legal and procedural measures. Funding the research project was the Department of Agriculture-Bureau of Agricultural Research (DA-BAR). Implementing it was the government-hosted Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) with the help of experts from the University of the Philippines at Los Baños (UPLB). Over the past quarter of a century, smuggling of agricultural products has grown to a $10-billion plus illegal trade per year because the country’s importation policies have not been responsive to the exigencies of the times, the study said.
In key informant interviews (KIIs) and focus group discussions (FGDs), the DA/BAR-SEARCA research team found out that some KII respondents from the regulatory agencies cited as example a policy enunciated in 1987 to have imported cargoes pre-inspected and certified at the port of origin. The policy was generally perceived to be effective in mitigating smuggling. However, it was stopped during the Estrada administration primarily because it was expensive. Another critical issue is the accreditation of importers. In the Philippines, seized smuggled shipments more often than not end up consigned to fictitious firms located at fictitious addresses. “This is an indication of a weak accreditation system, resulting mainly from the registration to separate offices by the importers, thereby facilitating finger-pointing when something goes wrong,” the study said. In contrast, in Singapore and Indonesia, importers are required to register with only one central office. Both countries stringently inspect the importer’s warehouses and rarely encounter fictitious importers with fictitious addresses. In many instances, in Singapore, importers are made to pay the cost of inspection by the regulatory authorities of the facilities and production procedures and standards of the sources of the agricultural products. “This results in higher investment cost for the importer so that the incentive not to jeopardize his/her accreditation by doing something illegal like smuggling is high among the importers,” the study said. Disproving the classical concept that penalty deters smuggling, the study said: “The existing penalties for smuggling in the country are so light that smugglers in the southern part of the country can afford to set up decoys so that the main vessel carrying the bulk of smuggled commodities can pass through without detection.” The Customs and Tariff Code provides a penalty of only up to 2.5 times the value of smuggled commodities. In Indonesia, the penalty is to pay 1,000 percent of the value of smuggled commodities for outright apprehension. In Singapore, stiff fines are accompanied by “social sanctions” like publication of offenders in the mass media. The DA/BAR-SEARCA study expressed grave concern that deadly animal diseases might find their way to the country owing to lack of appropriate cargo inspection facilities. Most importers use reefer vans for shipment of agricultural products due to perishable nature of the goods.
The policy is for all reefer vans to be subjected to inspection, and the Bureau of Customs (BOC) has been provided with X-ray machines. However, the regulatory agencies (for plants and animals alike) do not have free access to the machines or do not exercise explicit roles in the examination process. The study warned that the entry of contaminated agricultural products into the country can wipe out the whole industry. “This scenario poses a lot of risk for the local industry,” the study said. The Philippines might not remain the only Asian country free from foot-and-mouth disease and AH1N1 if the regulatory authorities are not equipped to perform their jobs more effectively. The study saidregulatory authorities, mostly veterinarians and agriculturists, are technically trained to detect contamination and contaminants. “In contrast, the BOC personnel is mostly composed of lawyers, who have less appreciation of the actual danger of any contaminated cargo” since the regulatory office’s performance is mainly gauged by revenues collected,” the study said. The study saw other “avenues of smuggling” like the “green lane” for bulk importers and “domestic transshipment.” To facilitate post-border processing of imported shipments, the BOC has designed a system where cargoes are automatically classified and color-coded. Shipments consigned to bulk importers (like multinational companies and chain-store operators) are not necessarily inspected because of their good reputation. Unfortunately, the study reported, the green lane and domestic transshipment had lately been noted by informants as “avenues of bulk smuggling,” particularly for rice and sugar, which do not require reefer vans. Currently, shipments destined for regional or local ports are not inspected at the international cargo terminals This procedure is vulnerable to manipulation to evade inspection and proper payment of duties, as exemplified by recent accounts of thousands of containers missing or unaccounted for in BOC records. Another possibility for facilitating smuggling in the country is the policy of allowing traders to amend the cargo manifest.
â€œCountries of origin may have strict rules and tight systems to prevent unscrupulous trading practices. However, this can be negated by a single stroke of an amendment to the manifest,â€? the study said. Other weak points found in the countryâ€™s importation system are inadequate access to cargo manifest, low utilization rates in bonded manufacturing warehouses, unconventional boarding protocol, not clearly defined rules of origin, variable tariff rates, and absence of price monitoring. (To be concluded) http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2014/02/17/1291288/special-report-agri-smugglers-takeadvantage-old-laws-loopholes-second
Alcala vows to fight smuggling (The Philippine Star) | Updated February 17, 2014 - 12:00am 0 0 googleplus0 0 MANILA, Philippines - Agriculture Secretary Proceso J. Alcala vows to press on with his campaign against smuggling to protect the farmers. Alcala stressed he is willing to work with lawmakers, the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and the Bureau of Customs (BOC) in uncovering such anomalies. Alcala said the result of a recent Senate hearing showed how the Department of Agriculture and the National Food Authority have been victimized by powerful groups of big-time rice traders who lorded over the industry during the past administration. Alcala welcomed statements urging the BOC to block the release of container vans of rice impounded at various ports, despite court orders. He agreed with lawmakers’ opinion that rice importation should be a state monopoly, and not of the private sector, to safeguard national interest, particularly that of the farmers. Massive rice importation by the private sector was allowed by the former Arroyo administration, making it vulnerable to manipulation and monopoly by powerful vested interests. In the course of its probe, the Senate has charged businessman Davidson Bangayan with perjury for allegedly lying about his alter-ego, a certain David Tan, referred to as the “king of smugglers.” The 11-page complaint against Bangayan was filed by Senate lawyer Horace Cruda with the National Prosecution Service. Bangayan had repeatedly denied being David Tan, but documents submitted to the Department of Justice (DOJ) showed him identifying himself as using the same alias. He was earlier cited for contempt by the Senate for lying under oath. Likewise, the Bureau of Immigration (BID) has issued a lookout bulletin order against Bangayan. The BID bulletin orders all immigration agents in airports to be on the lookout for Bangayan’s possible flight abroad. Bangayan had been arrested by NBI agents. He is currently out on bail. Bangayan has been tagged as a suspect in large-scale rice smuggling in the south.
Jesus Arranza of the Federation of Philippine Industries named the suspect as a certain David Tan. The entry of rice without permits into the country is now being aggressively stopped, according to BOC Commissioner Philip Sevilla, citing some 20 to 25 consignees involved in the current probe against smuggling. BOC deputy commissioner Jessie Dellosa said up to 1,937 container vans of rice were placed on hold after they were seized at the countryâ€™s ports from October to December last year. Rice traders, farmers and millers have asked the President and Alcala to act decisively on the rampant rice smuggling in the South. Abono partylist chairman Rosendo So said cited rampant rice smuggling in Davao and Cebu, from where the grains were shipped to Luzon and sold at low prices. So said rice from neighboring countries were being diverted to Davao and Cebu and misdeclared as slag, woodwall, tiles, or ukay-ukay clothes. Rice smuggling by Bangayanâ€™s group has been reported to have cost the government P10 billion in lost revenues every year. http://www.philstar.com/business/2014/02/17/1291198/alcala-vows-fight-smuggling
CARP: Redistributing poverty! DEMAND AND SUPPLY By Boo Chanco (The Philippine Star) | Updated February 17, 2014 12:00am 9 107 googleplus0 6 During the last Cabinet meeting, I understand that P-Noy was perplexed by the issue of persistent poverty. In his way of thinking, he might have thought that by making the CCT a flagship program of his administration and pouring billions into it, even a tiny bit of improvement would manifest by now. By the end of the long meeting, I am told that P-Noy gave orders to his Cabinet members to intensify anti-poverty measures in the rural areas. At least, he knows this is where we can find most of our poor people. If P-Noy was bolder and not conflicted by family ties, he could have also taken a stand to stop this charade we call our land reform program. The present law is due to expire this June and even now, there are those who are advocating extending the law and throwing even more money into it. Before we do any such thing, it is time to honestly evaluate how the program has performed over the last 25 years. The best place to start the review is a discussion paper on the subject written by Dr. Raul V. Fabella of the UP School of Economics. Dr. Fabella is also a National Scientist. Dr. Fabella’s paper is extensive and space limitations prevent me from reproducing it here. But I will try to pick some of Dr. Fabella’s more important findings and observations that ought to be considered in how we should proceed on land reform if the objective is to reduce poverty. Dr. Fabella starts with a review of CARP over the quarter century of its existence. He points out that “by 2014, 5.05 million of the 5.37m hectares of the targeted agricultural land shall have been distributed. Business ( Article MRec ), pagematch: 1, sectionmatch: 1 “As a program for land asset equity, it shall have accomplished 99 percent of its target, whopper of a success for a government program. As a program to advance the economic welfare of farmers, it has accomplished the opposite of its stated goals.” Dr. Fabella found productivity has fallen drastically in coconut and sugar and poverty incidence among agrarian reform beneficiaries in agrarian reform communities stood at 54% in 2011
higher than for farmers in general. “CARP and CARPER has created a new class of people: the landed poor.” Many of us often talk of successful land reform programs in Japan and Taiwan. Dr. Fabella sets the record straight on what actually happened in those countries. “Japan’s vaunted land reform distributed only 1.76 million hectares of its total 37 million or 4.7 percent. Taiwan distributed 0.5 million hectares of its total of 3.63 million or 14 percent. Note that the Japanese land reform was carried out by the Allied Occupation Forces, while Taiwan’s was by the virtual military government of the Kuomintang Party under Generalissimo Chiang Kai Shek.” Where did we go wrong? Land reform to succeed, Dr. Fabella observed, requires some very stringent governance and design requirements which copycats conveniently forgot. “First, those early post-war land reform episodes were over and done in no more than five years. They succeeded because they knew when and where to stop. “Japan’s, Taiwan’s and South Korea’s land reform largely stopped at rice lands! By contrast CARP has lasted 25 years and took on all crops. Counting the years from the original rice and corn land reform in 1964, we already had half a century of land reform.” Our problem, Dr. Fabella pointed out, is that “as in most weak states, form and ambition were pushed to substitute for substance and, as with all government boondoggles, failure was trafficked as a sure sign of lack of funds.” What is worse for CARP, according to the National Scientist, is its outcome on beneficiaries’ quality of life. Quality of life is correlated with being above or below the poverty line. The UP economist points out a survey showing that among agrarian reform communities, 54 percent of households fell below the poverty line! The 2009 FIES (or the Family Income and Expenditure Survey) data show that only 35 percent of farmers fell below the poverty line. This seems to say, he said, that agrarian reform farmer beneficiaries of CARP had become poorer! A big problem is the expectation for beneficiaries to become owner-cultivators in order to retain the land. But running a farm is a complex entrepreneurial and managerial undertaking. Dr. Fabella points out that “the farmer-owner has to arrange financing, do the land preparation, procure the seeds and fertilizer, do the weeding, decide on the timing of planting, seeding and harvest, contract a buyer and negotiate the price with the buyer and hope to God the weather cooperates... Few people are equipped to deal successfully with this plethora of decisions. “If the beneficiary does not have the requisite entrepreneurship and managerial aptitude, he/she will surely drown in debt and may fare better as a wage employee. But with CARP, he/she cannot legally opt out if he/she wants to hold on to the land; he/she is forced to be an entrepreneur.”
A key problem of our land reform program has to do with property rights. “Unsettled property rights have always in history been a predictor of economic stagnation and the Philippine farm sector is just another instance of this.” Dr. Fabella recalls that “CARP has dragged on for over two decades now; this means that the Philippine agricultural economy has suffered two decades of ill defined and contested property rights leading to highly uncertain investment climate in agriculture.” Dr. Fabella also does not subscribe to the common notion, specially of some Catholic bishops, that CARP’s meager harvest is due to inadequate provision of extension services required to make the farmers economically viable. “Their common prescription is therefore to throw more money at the failure. Some will now advocate CARPERER. We do not share this view.” Dr. Fabella believes the program failed because of bad design and no amount of money can save it. More money is just a prescription for permanent failure. Additionally, Dr Fabella also notes a moral hazard for bureaucrats and politicians advocating more money thrown into the program. “Why, indeed succeed when failure brings the money. Second, there is better use for the money. Would not the P160 billion already spent by 2009 have been better spent to subsidize the education of the children of target landless tenant households?” Third, Dr. Fabella warns that “flawed design will make a program a resource black hole. CARP was -- and CARPER is -- fundamentally flawed in its design: it seeks to empower the beneficiary with land ownership and then undermines this ownership by (a) forcing a three hectare limit on awarded farm sizes for all crops, thus negating possible scale economies (rife in sugar, for example); and (b) outlawing the tradability of land and/or its use which would facilitate more optimal use and assignment. “The demise of the formal land market effectively disemboweled the formal rural credit market, making credit accessible only from the underground or trader mediated credit markets. The exorbitant interest rates in the latter (up to 70 percent) mean that the farmer is no better than a share tenancy contract (50 to 70 percent).” “CARP has effectively chased away private capital from agriculture with the five-hectare ownership limit,” Dr. Fabella observes. “While private capital is not interested in owning the land, they cannot be expected to deal with a thousand farmers to rent two thousand hectares to cultivate. “Where private capital dared test the waters, it ended up in a circus: e.g., the San Miguel Food Corp. swine project at Sumilao. CARP has effectively sent the agricultural credit market underground. It has presumed that farmers automatically morph into entrepreneur-businessmen with access to land.” One other failure of CARP is it has “disallowed the selling or renting of land in the open market until paid up, and paid up is elusive under the CARP restrictions. With 1.2 hectares average
landholding and half a hectare under cultivation, on average, beneficiaries cannot be expected to breach the poverty ceiling…” Dr. Fabella thinks it is “now is the time to let go. We now have to redirect our agricultural focus from land equity to farm efficiency. More productive farmers should now be allowed to legally own and cultivate 10 or more hectares as market efficiency dictates. Corporations registered with the Philippine Stock Exchange and owned by thousands should have no agricultural land ownership ceiling. “Private capital must be attracted back into agriculture. Banks operating in the rural areas and lending to farmers should be allowed considerable latitude in ownership of agricultural land…” “To echo the architect of the great Chinese Economic Miracle, Deng Xiaoping: It is time to stop redistributing poverty!” Boo Chanco’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @boochanco http://www.philstar.com/business/2014/02/17/1291216/carp-redistributing-poverty
Former NFA executives say policy, not smuggling, is the problem Category: Nation 16 Feb 2014
WHILE the country’s leaders continue to obsess over the hunt for “illegal rice importers,” two former heads of the National Food Authority (NFA) were in agreement that flawed government policy, not smuggling, poses the biggest threat to the nation’s rice industry. Anthony Abad explained that smuggling was just one of the many symptoms of a flawed system of rice regulation while Lito Banayo warned that government’s continued monopoly of rice importation could cause NFA’s debt to balloon to as much as P190 billion. “Rice smuggling occurs because there is an unmet demand of a hungry population. Smuggling and the illicit importation of rice simply reflect a deficit in supply,” said Abad, a lawyer and international trade expert. At the Senate hearings, so‐called illegal importations were attributed to the absence of a definitive policy on the World Trade Organization (WTO)‐granted “special privilege” of quantitative restrictions (QR) on the importation of rice that had expired in June 2012. During the said hearings, the Department of Agriculture (DA) maintained that despite its expiration, importation quotas on rice will remain in place until 2017, even as the Philippines has yet to succeed in negotiating an extension with fellow WTO member‐countries. But Abad believes otherwise: “When you have an agreement that is time‐bound, the special treatment clause expires upon the deadline. The Philippines is the only country left that maintains a QR.” The DA and attached agency NFA have been criticized by some sectors for supposedly using QR and the issuance of import permits to maintain a “monopoly” over rice trade. Abad, who was NFA administrator from 2000 to 2002, agreed that the “outdated QR system and government rice monopoly, only lead to high prices, inefficiency, corruption and smuggling.” In a television interview, Banayo, for his part, expressed astonishment at how the agency has come to monopolize rice trade over the last year. “In the third year of this Aquino administration, 2013, I was surprised to read in the papers that it was only the NFA doing the importing, without participation from the private sector,” he said in the vernacular.
Supposedly, under the 2010 Food Staples Self‐sufficiency Program (FSSP), the country’s rice self‐ sufficiency road map, importation should primarily be the role of the private sector. “The private sector should be the one to import. The NFA should, little by little, remove itself from rice importation and concentrate on local procurement, which we followed for two years,” Banayo, who was administrator during the first two years of the Aquino presidency, described the agency’s thrust under his watch. Moreover, he warned that the NFA’s continued monopoly over rice importation, through government‐ to‐government transactions, is a virtual “white elephant,” costing the country billions in public funds. “We are going to be deep in debt. I think, at the rate it’s going, mostly from government‐to‐government imports, we will reach P190 billion by the time P‐Noy [President Aquino] term ends,” Banayo said. Amid increasing prices, and if it were to be true to its mandate, Banayo reminded the NFA to concentrate on two things: “one to make sure that there is available rice in the market, [and] two, to make it affordable.” The Bureau of Agricultural Statistics, as of February 4, said well‐milled rice retails for P39.94 per kilogram, 13.33 percent higher than last year. Regular milled rice retails for P36.73 per kilogram, 14.64 percent higher than the previous year. To help lower rice prices, the 2010 FSSP recommends “to allow the expiration of QR by 2012.” http://www.businessmirror.com.ph/index.php/en/news/nation/27671‐former‐nfa‐executives‐say‐ policy‐not‐smuggling‐is‐the‐problem
BPI to expand agri loan portfolio this year By Donnabelle L. Gatdula (The Philippine Star) | Updated February 17, 2014 - 12:00am googleplus MANILA, Philippines - Ayala-led Bank of Philippines Islands (BPI) will continue to expand its loan portfolio for agribusiness this year, a ranking bank official said. BPI executive vice president and corporate banking group head Alfonso Salcedo Jr. said the bank’s agribusiness book now stood over P20 billion. “We would want to push for that (continue supporting and giving out agribusiness loans) this year,” he said. Salcedo said the bank would want to be part of promoting inclusive growth and one way to achieve this is for it to continue to lend to agriculture sector. “There are a lot of people in the countryside. This is one of our main thrusts this year (to help promote inclusive growth in the countryside),” he said. Last year, BPI rolled out a new product, BPI Agribusiness Solutions (BAS), to help boost the bank’s agribusiness portfolio. BAS was lunched in March 2013 to cater to commercial poultry raisers and hog farmers which BPI calls as “agripreneurs”. The product is being offered by BPI in partnership with Genus Pig Improvement Co. (Genus PIC), an international leader in providing genetically superior pig breeding stock and technical support for maximizing genetic potential to commercial pork producers. It was noted that agriculture sector has contributed 12.3 percent or P11.9 billion of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) in 2011. http://www.philstar.com/business/2014/02/17/1291175/bpi-expand-agri-loan-portfolio-year
USDA offers aid to PH farmers By Ronnel W. Domingo Philippine Daily Inquirer 7:50 pm | Sunday, February 16th, 2014 Farmers in the Caraga region will greatly benefit from the post-harvest facilities to be established by the local government units (LGUs) with the help of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). The US agency teamed up with LGUs to set up a $15-million (about P676 million) Philippines Cold Chain Project (PCCP). The project will be carried out mainly through the Food for Progress initiative of the USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service. The four-year project will directly help some 979,000 Filipino farmers in the five provinces of Caraga. For this, the USDA and project implementor Winrock International earlier this month signed a memorandum of understanding with the governors of Agusan del Norte, Agusan del Sur, Dinagat Islands, Surigao del Norte and Surigao del Sur.
The US embassy in Manila said in a statement that, according to Winrock International, the Caraga region could be the future breadbasket of the Philippines, specifically because of its ability to supply urban centers like Manila or Cebu. “The region is blessed with abundant resources, fertile lands, and diverse and attractive ecotourism sites, yet Caraga remains one of the poorest regions in the country,” the embassy said. The PCCP intends to help farmers earn more by increasing productivity and food safety while reducing losses, mainly through the provision of equipment and technical support to local government and private sector projects related to the development of cold storage infrastructure. According to the US embassy’s information office, whatever infrastructure that will be developed through the project depends on the level of financial commitment from private and government sources. The PCCP will work with those engage in horticulture, as well as meat and fish producers, who will benefit from a temperature-controlled supply system. “Higher quality, higher value agricultural products will be able to compete in new markets as businesses and consumers demand products meeting international quality standards,” the embassy said.
Read more: http://business.inquirer.net/164172/usda-offers-aid-to-ph-farmers#ixzz2tYFA58Ay Follow us: @inquirerdotnet on Twitter | inquirerdotnet on Facebook
Coco oil shipments slide in January By Czeriza Valencia (The Philippine Star) | Updated February 17, 2014 - 12:00am 0 0 googleplus0 0 MANILA, Philippines - Coconut oil shipments in January remained within the normal level as the effects of Super Typhoon Yolanda on copra supply are not yet felt. Preliminary data from the United Coconut Association of the Philippines Inc. (UCAP) showed that coconut oil shipments in January reached 72,470 metric tons (MT) against an unusually high shipment volume of 135,432 MT in the same period last year. “We are comparing the January 2014 shipments with a high volume period, but the export volume for the month is within the normal monthly shipment range,” said UCAP executive director Yvonne Agustin. She said the extent of the effect of Super typhoon Yolanda on copra supply is expected to be felt in succeeding shipments. “The extent of the effect of Super typhoon Yolanda on coconut oil shipments are yet to be fully determined. It should be felt in the next month’s shipment,” said Agustin. Coconut oil still enjoys a premium world market price of $1,373 per MT compared with its main competitor, palm kernel oil which fetches a price of $1,290 per MT. Because of the anticipated lower copra production this year, aggregate coconut oil exports are expected to fall to 850,000 MT this year against 1.126 MT in 2013. Yolanda damaged 441,517 hectares of coconut plantation in the Visayas, causing production losses of P17.8 billion. http://www.philstar.com/business/2014/02/17/1291193/coco-oil-shipments-slide-january
SRA hikes allocation for domestic market By Czeriza Valencia (The Philippine Star) | Updated February 17, 2014 - 12:00am MANILA, Philippines - The Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) has raised the allocation of the domestic market in the sugar production for crop year 2013-2014 to protect the domestic supply as lower production is expected this year. In an order, the SRA reallocated the percentage distribution of sugar produced for the current crop year to protect the domestic buffer stock and prevent prices from shooting up amid increasing demand. The new allocation is 92 percent for the domestic market instead of 86 percent and six percent for the world market instead of 12 percent. The allocation for the US export quota was retained at two percent. The SRA said that after the periodic assessment on production expectations, it was determined that due to the series of weather disturbances that visited the country last year, domestic sugar production is expected to fall to 2.356 metric tons (MT). “While our current crop year’s production is on the downtrend on the one hand, the record showed that our local demand or consumption for sugar is increasing, thus it is projected that our domestic sugar buffer stock at the end of the crop year will be at critical level if and when the sugar production percentage allocation will not be adjusted,” the SRA said. The new allocation takes effect immediately to cover sugar produced during the week ending Feb. 16 and subsequent week ending in the current crop year. In August last year, the SRA estimated sugar production for the current crop year to reach 2.45 MT. Final sugar production for crop year 2012-2013 reached 2.457 MT, up by 9.5 percent from the previous crop year. The SRA is mandated to maintain a balance in sugar production and market conditions to ensure the stability of prices in a way that it remain profitable to producers and fair to consumers. http://www.philstar.com/business/2014/02/17/1291181/sra-hikes-allocation-domestic-market
Farmgate prices of palay, corn up in Feb By Czeriza Valencia (The Philippine Star) | Updated February 17, 2014 - 12:00am MANILA, Philippines - Farmers continued to enjoy higher farmgate prices of palay and white corn grain in the first and second week of February, the Bureau of Agricultural Statistics (BAS) announced over the weekend. In its regular update on palay, rice and corn prices, BAS reported that the average price of palay rose by 0.97 percent during the survey period of Feb. 5 to Feb. 11 to P18.83 per kilogram from the previous week. Year-on-year, farmgate prices of palay frose by 16. 23 percent. Farmgate prices of palay have been rising weekly since the start of the year. Farmgate price of white corn grain sustained its rise since late January. During the reference period, white corn grain prices rose 1.46 percent to P15.25 per kg from P15.03 per kg the previous week. Year-on-year, however, prices were down by 1.87 percent. Price of yellow corn grain at the farmgate level, meanwhile, fell 0.93 percent week-on-week to P11.76 per kg during the reference period and by 1.51 percent year-on-year. Upward movements were also observed in wholesale and retail prices of well-milled rice during the reference period. The average wholesale price of well-milled rice rose 0.29 per percent to P37.63 per kg week-onweek during the reference period. Year-on-year prices rose by 14.83 percent. The average retail price of well-milled rice rose to P40.06 per kg, up by 0.25 percent week-onweek and up by 13.59 percent year-on-year. The wholesale price of regular-milled rice placed at P34.93 per kg during the reference period was higher by 0.40 percent from the previous week’s level and by 17.41 percent from last year’s quotation. The average retail price of regular milled rice at P36.75 per kg increased by 0.16 percent from last week’s records. Compared to last year, this went up by 14.74 percent. Price gains were also noted for wholesale and retail of yellow corn grain. The average retail price of yellow corn grain at P36.75 per kg increased by 0.16 percent from last week’s records. Compared to last year, this went up by 14.74 percent.
Retail price of yellow corn grain registered a 0.69 percent increase during the reference period over the previous week’s retail price of P21.81 per kg. But, from last year’s P22.36 per kg, it was lower by 1.79 percent. Both wholesale and retail prices of white corn grain fell week-on-week during the reference period. Wholesale price of white corn grain quoted at P15.52 per kg declined by 0.39 percent from the previous week’s posting. Compared to last year’s quotation of P15.26 per kg, price gained by 1.70 percent. The average retail price fell by 0.20 percent from the retail price of P20.10 per kg in the previous week. Relative to last year’s quotation of P19.50 per kg, price went up by 2.87 percent. http://www.philstar.com/business/2014/02/17/1291180/farmgate-prices-palay-corn-feb
California wine‐grape growers celebrate bumper crop Category: Agri‐Commodities 16 Feb 2014 Written by AP/The Modesto Bee
MODESTO, California— California agriculture officials reported good news for wine lovers and vineyard operators alike: A record harvest of wine grapes. Growers in America’s premier wine region brought in a bumper crop last year, thanks to expanded acreage and overall favorable weather. Wine brokers told The Modesto Bee that two back‐to‐back years of large harvests will mean wine aficionados should find plenty of bargain bottles on grocery store shelves. “Consumers are in a great position because of the amount of wine that is coming out of California,” said Erica Moyer of Riverbank, a grape and wine broker for Turrentine Brokerage in Novato. Wine grapes are one of California’s top commodities, a crop worth $3.16 billion last year, according to the California Association of Winegrape Growers. The California Department of Food and Agriculture’s preliminary figures showed that the crop of red and white varieties combined weighed in at 4.23 million tons in 2013, up 5 percent from 4.02 million tons in 2012. The industry is well positioned to take advantage of the large crops, said Heidi Scheid, chairman of the winegrape growers’ association.
“After short crops in 2010 and 2011, growers delivered two remarkable vintages, with record‐sized harvests and exceptional quality,” she said. While Napa County’s vineyards carry international cache, the San Joaquin Valley, stretching for 220 miles (354 kilometers) from Stockton to Bakersfield, is the most prolific grape‐growing region in the US and home to 44 percent of the state’s crop. Along with raisins and table grapes, vast tracts of wine grapes are mechanically harvested for popular labels such as Gallo’s economy brands and Bronco’s popular Charles Shaw, aka Two Buck Chuck, and blended into higher‐end wines. Large growers in the valley are poised to profit from the higher volumes, analysts said. “We had a good‐quality harvest, and heavier than expected,” Fred Franzia, chief executive officer of Bronco, said in an e‐mail. Bronco is California’s largest vineyard owner. AP/The Modesto Bee In Photo: This October 27, 2011, file photo shows a sign along Highway 29 welcoming visitors to the Napa Valley in Oakville, California. Napa Valley wine‐grape growers said on January 28 some vines are ripening early and that farmers are planning fewer crops to save water. (AP)
BAS: Fisheries sector grew 1.23% in 2013 Category: Agri‐Commodities 16 Feb 2014 Written by Alladin S. Diega / Correspondent
THE country’s fisheries sector recovered from its negative growth in 2012 and came up with 1.23-percent production gain in 2013, according to the Bureau of Agricultural Statistics (BAS). The total production amounted to P139.7 billion, at constant prices. The BAS, now under the newly created Philippine Statistics Office, said the increase was attributed to the positive growth in the first three quarters of 2013 which offset the slide in production in the fourth quarter of the year. The BAS used to be under the Department of Agriculture (DA). Aquaculture production of milkfish, and the commercial fishing of yellowfin tuna with an output improved by 3.7 percent, led the growth. The Philippines’s milkfish or bangus production of 406,000 metric tons (MT) is an improvement of 3.44 percent in 2012 and 3.7 percent in 2013. Ninety‐nine percent of milkfish production came from aquaculture, while the remaining 1 percent was from inland fisheries. “Tilapia, tiger prawn and skipjack sustained their upward trends in production,” the 2013 Fisheries Situationer reported, while seaweed continued to experience a drop in output, 11 percent lower than last year. The biggest decline of 18.46 percent was recorded during the fourth quarter of the reported year. Skipjack production at 209,146.79 MT grew by 1.3 percent in 2013. Catch of skipjack by municipal fishermen dropped by 0.95 percent, while commercial fishing vessels registered a 1.86‐percent growth in 2013. Volume of production of tilapia reached a 318,000‐MT output, or a growth of 3.18 percent. Of this volume, 85 percent was cultured in freshwater aquafarms and 15 percent, captured from inland waters. In 2013 tiger prawn production was estimated at 50,000 MT, posting a 2.59‐percent increase, with 99 percent of coming from the aquaculture subsector. Although the annual fisheries situationer did not explicitly state the effects of Supertyphoon Yolanda (international code name Haiyan) which battered coastal towns in Eastern Visayas as the main culprit for the decline in overall production, earlier reports from the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, an agency under the DA, reported that billions of pesos in terms of production were lost because of the
inability of fishers in Eastern Visayas to go on fishing for months, after thousands of human lives and fishing vessels were destroyed by the super typhoon in November last year. “Commercial fisheries gained a 4.3‐percent increase in output in 2013 due to the unloading of yellow‐fin tuna and skipjack by foreign fishing vessels for canneries in General Santos City, South Cotabato,” the BAS said. The growth, the agency said, was due to increased fishing operations of commercial vessels in the high seas, with round scad, skipjack, yellowfin tuna, Indian sardines and frigate tuna as the top 5 species for the commercial sector. The sector contributed 27.22 percent to the total fisheries production. Municipal fisheries posted a 1.18‐percent output shortfall in 2013, with the production cut largely attributed to lesser fishing operations of sustenance fishermen due to rough seas and several typhoons that visited the country during the year. Marine municipal fisheries shared 90.45 percent of the total municipal fisheries production. The remaining 9.55 percent came from inland fisheries. Indian sardines, roundscad, big‐eyed scad and frigate tuna were the top species for the sector. Municipal fisheries accounted for 30.32 percent of the total fisheries output in 2013. Aquaculture production in 2013 grew by 1.82 percent compared with the previous year’s output. Aquaculture comprised 42.46 percent of the total fisheries output. Production of milkfish, tilapia and tiger prawn increased during the year due to more harvests from aquaculture farms. These species accounted for 84.53 percent of the total aquaculture production. Other species like carp, catfish and oyster also pulled up aquaculture’s output for the year. http://www.businessmirror.com.ph/index.php/en/business/agri‐commodities/27654‐bas‐fisheries‐ sector‐grew‐1‐23‐in‐2013
Government cuts sugar export to meet local demand Category: Agri‐Commodities 16 Feb 2014 Written by Alladin S. Diega
DESPITE decreasing sugar production, demand in the local market continues to prompt the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) to cut sugar allocation for the export market. Under the Sugar Order 1A, SRA Administrator Ma. Regina Bautista‐Martin ordered the reallocation of “D sugar” or world‐market sugar for “B sugar” or domestic‐market sugar in order to meet the increasing demand for the sweetener in the local market. “While the current crop year’s production is on the downtrend, records show that our local demand or consumption for sugar is increasing,” Martin said. The SRA chief said it is necessary for the agency to reallocate sugar for the world market to the local market, stressing that the projected sugar buffer stock may hit critical level by the end of crop year 2013‐2014. “The SRA conducted periodic assessments wherein it was determined that the series of severe climatic disturbances befalling the country directly impacted sugar production,” Martin said. “Our national sugar production will be reduced to more or less 2.356 metric tons [MT] for the current crop year,” she added. Earlier the SRA said it expected sugar production for crop year 2013‐2014 to reach 2.45 million metric tons [MMT], roughly the same level as the actual production of 2.45 MMT in the previous crop year. Of the total projected volume, Martin said they have 2 percent for “A sugar” or US sugar quota, 12 percent for D sugar or world‐market sugar, and 86 percent to B sugar or domestic market. “In order to avert the eventual disturbance of our normal supply of domestic sugar at the end of the crop year, the SRA is under obligation to and will revise distribution of percentages of sugar,” she said. Under the new scheme, the SRA reallocated 2 percent for US quota sugar, 6 percent for world market sugar and 92 percent for the domestic market. As of January 26, local sugar production was pegged at 1,264,277 MT compared to 1,383,920 MT during the same period last year. Alladin S. Diega http://www.businessmirror.com.ph/index.php/en/business/agri‐commodities/27653‐government‐cuts‐ sugar‐export‐to‐meet‐local‐demand
Benguet ‘rose capital’ finds ways to keep blooming By Kimberlie Quitasol Inquirer Northern Luzon 7:49 pm | Sunday, February 16th, 2014
FARMERS from Bahong village in the Benguet town of La Trinidad harvest roses in time for Valentine’s week. Bahong and other villages in La Trinidad are famous for their rose production. EV ESPIRITU/INQUIRER NORTHERN LUZON LA TRINIDAD, Benguet— While most women look forward to receiving red roses this Valentine’s Day, Juliet Bentrez, a farmer in La Trinidad town in Benguet province, would rather receive chocolates. “I would rather that my husband give me chocolates,” said Bentrez, a rose farmer in the village of Bahong. “I would be more thrilled if he gives me cash,” she said, while breaking into laughter. Bentrez and her husband grow roses on about a hectare of land in five different locations in Bahong, considered the “rose capital” of the province. “We are so used to roses here (Bahong) that it has become too common already,” she said.
FARMERS from Bahong village in the Benguet town of La Trinidad harvest roses in time for Valentine’s week. Bahong and other villages in La Trinidad are famous for their rose production. EV ESPIRITU/INQUIRER NORTHERN LUZON Receiving roses on Valentine’s Day or any other special occasion like Mother’s Day and the Christmas holidays seems quite funny, she noted. Nida Organo, senior agriculturist of La Trinidad, said 635 farmers grow roses in the town and 50 percent of them work in Bahong. She said roses are also grown in the villages of Alno, Alapang and Bineng. But farmers in Bahong are fearful that their village’s reputation as the leading rose producer in the province would be lost as more gardens are being planted to other flower varieties. On Feb. 2, Bahong launched its first tourism week to encourage farmers to dedicate more areas to rose cultivation and at the same time draw more tourists to visit the rose gardens. “There is still a wider area planted to roses this year but we fear that our village might lose its title as the rose capital of the province if more farmers would change their product,” said Belmer Elis, Bahong village councilor and chair of the village’s tourism committee. Each farmer in Bahong plants roses on an an average of 1,500 square meters of garden. During the peak season, like February, flower traders buy roses at a wholesale price of P600 to P700 a bundle (a bundle has two dozen stems).
Bentrez said roses need TLC (tender loving care) and more attention compared to other cut flowers. Roses, she said, are sensitive to changes in temperature and are easily infested with pests. “Unlike Malaysian mums, we need to check on roses almost every day, water them, prune them and spray them [with insecticides] so they would produce the best flowers,” she said. She said they need to spray insecticides every four days to ensure that the buds and flowers would not be eaten by pests. “We use the more expensive insecticide brand if we want exquisite red roses,” she said. Her one-hectare farm needs five bottles of insecticides for a spraying session and each 500-milliliter bottle costs P1,850. “Roses do not want extreme temperatures—very cold or very warm—maybe that is why they grow well here in Bahong because unlike other areas in the province, it is not that cold here,” she said. Gonzalo Kisse, another Bahong rose farmer, said roses thrive well outdoors than in greenhouses. “Of course, it is a different story if you talk about the expensive, high-end greenhouses that other countries use. We cannot afford that technology here in Bahong,” he said.
“In Bahong, greenhouses are simply makeshift covers made out of plastic sheets supported by bamboo. These have no temperature controls similar to modern greenhouses,” he said. Since they are not in greenhouses, roses are vulnerable to changes in temperature, pests and weather disturbances, he said. Kisse said the drop in temperatures in the Cordillera in January worried farmers as this delayed the flowering of roses.
ROSES require a lot of tender loving care from farmers. Elis said some farmers opted to limit accepting bulk orders from their regular clients in Metro Manila, despite the high demand for Valentine’s Day, as they do not want to lose money due to the unpredictable weather. Village officials said they have been observing a decrease in the land area planted to roses because many farmers, especially those in Upper Bahong, had planted portions of their farms with Malaysian mums this year. Organo said that in 2008, the total land area planted to roses was estimated at 200 hectares in Bahong, Alno, Alapang and Bineng. The area, however, was reduced to 160 ha in 2013. Kisse said he planted some sections of his garden with Malaysian mums and these have been reserved for a buyer who would use them for the Panagbenga (Baguio Flower Festival). “I still plant roses but I also venture in other cut flowers because roses are harder and more expensive to maintain,” he said.
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Peso now said to be undervalued DOF: Weakening currency does not reflect true picture of PH By Michelle V. Remo Philippine Daily Inquirer 7:54 pm | Sunday, February 16th, 2014
Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima believes that the peso, which has depreciated from its 2013 average despite the country’s “sound” fundamentals, is now undervalued. Purisima said the weakening of the peso was a result of external factors affecting emerging economies in general. It is not an accurate valuation of the country’s economy in particular, he pointed out. “I believe there is no fundamental reason why this depreciation should occur. I would even say the peso is undervalued given the Philippines’ impressive growth and macroeconomic environment,” Purisima said during a forum held in Singapore last week. The peso, which averaged at 42.45 against the US dollar last year, broke into the 45-to-a-dollar territory in January and averaged at 44.93 during the month. This came about soon after the United States Federal Reserve decided to scale back its stimulus measure, triggering a flight of portfolio funds from emerging markets toward the American economy. Purisima, who served as a key lecturer in the forum organized by the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), took the opportunity to spread the word about the favorable developments in the Philippines.
The country, which grew by 7.2 percent last year, is estimated to have recorded the second fastest growth rate in Asia last year next to China. Purisima expressed confidence that the Philippines would sustain the rapid growth rate over the medium term. “Our strong current account position and fiscal situation can support our consumption and infrastructure investment, which are primary drivers of growth,” Purisima said. Driven by continually rising remittances and foreign investments in business process outsourcing (BPO), the country’s current account stood at a surplus in the past few years. A surplus of $3.2 billion was recorded in the third quarter of 2013—up from the $2.2 billion of the same period the previous year.
The current account surplus beefed up the country’s total reserves of foreign exchange, which currently stands at about $80 billion. This is enough to cover the country’s import requirements for a year. Purisima said if the peso were valued based solely on fundamentals, it would not have weakened to levels seen recently. “There is a sentiment against emerging markets wherein individual countries are lumped together as if there was only one kind of emerging market country. As a result, the Philippine peso has been depreciating,” Purisima said. Read more: http://business.inquirer.net/164180/peso‐now‐said‐to‐be‐undervalued#ixzz2tYD71U8d Follow us: @inquirerdotnet on Twitter | inquirerdotnet on Facebook
RHI profit up by 163% Philippine Daily Inquirer 7:53 pm | Sunday, February 16th, 2014 Roxas Holdings Inc. said its profit for the quarter ending December 2013 soared by 163 percent year-on-year to P90 million on the back of higher sugar sales and the turnaround of its bioethanol business. “We were able to sell carry-over inventory of 500,000 50-kilogram bags of refined sugar which boosted our sales by about P1 billion,” RHI chair Pedro Roxas said in a statement. The fourth quarter of each calendar year, October to December, is the first quarter in RHI’s fiscal year which ends in September. RHI president Renato Valencia said sugar remained the main net income contributor, with profit of P67 million, up from P66 million a year ago.
“Ethanol’s net income for the quarter is now positive, albeit small compared to previous year’s losses of P41 million,” Valencia said. Roxol Bioenergy Corp. sold five million liters of ethanol for the first quarter of crop year 2014 compared to only 668,000 liters in the same period last year. Both executives stressed that the first quarter was typically a slow period for the industry as cane deliveries and sugar recovery were just starting to scale up. As such, they added that the favorable first quarter performance would bode well for the rest of the year. Doris C. Dumlao
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BSP to lift branching restrictions in Manila By Kathleen A. Martin (The Philippine Star) | Updated February 17, 2014 - 12:00am 1 0 googleplus0 0 MANILA, Philippines - Branching restrictions in Metro Manila will be lifted in July, a Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas official reiterated amid banks’ bid to expand their reach in the country. The central bank earlier put a restriction on putting up branches in Makati, Mandaluyong, Manila, Parañaque, Pasay, Pasig, Quezon and San Juan, to avoid high concentration of banks in said Metro Manila cities. In 2011, the BSP moved to lift the branching limitation through two phases, the first which involves allowing big banks with less than 200 branches as of 2010 in the restricted areas to put up branches in Metro Manila.The second phase, meanwhile, involves the complete lifting of the restriction beginning July 1. Part of the reason why the BSP limited the establishment of branches in Metro Manila is to allow banks to expand in provinces and reach the unbanked and underbanked, BSP Deputy Governor Nestor A. Espenilla Jr. said. “We recognized the need to include more people in the financial system (which is) financial inclusion,” Espenilla said. However, Espenilla said big banks may not readily jump on the opportunity to open branches in Metro Manila right away following the lifting of the branching restriction although he does not discount the idea. He explained that a number of universal and commercial banks that acquired smaller banks still have backlogs in establishing or rebranding some of their branches in Metro Manila. At present, banks have been aggressively expanding amid recent capital raising activities. “What we’re seeing is the big banks are doing both — they’re expanding into NCR (National Capital Region) and they’re expanding as well outside of NCR,” Espenilla recounted. “If you are raising capital you need to make the money work that’s why they are deploying and mobilizing more deposits... they’re continuing to give loans,” he continued. He further added: “So in our view, NPLs (non-performing loans) are going down, capital is rising, these are signs of a healthy banking system.”Data from the central bank showed there were 9,720 head offices and bank branches in the country as of end-September last year, higher than the 9,410 count recorded in end-2012. http://www.philstar.com/business/2014/02/17/1291176/bsp-lift-branching-restrictions-manila
Gov’t unveils suite of poverty reduction measures Aquino administration aims to halve number of poor Filipinos By Michelle V. Remo Philippine Daily Inquirer 7:51 pm | Sunday, February 16th, 2014
The Aquino administration’s latest poverty reduction roadmap—which provides for more investments in social services, infrastructure and skills training—is expected to halve the number of poor Filipinos in less than a decade. Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan said that under the updated medium-term Philippine Development Plan (PDP), which is set to be released today, the country’s provinces will be divided into three categories. Category 1 under the updated PDP covers highly populated areas with robust commercial activities. Examples are Metro Manila and progressive provinces such as Pangasinan. Balisacan said one anti-poverty measure to be implemented in areas under this classification was the conduct of skills training to people from low-income households so they can take advantage of employment opportunities. Because areas under this category already accommodate more businesses than others, Balisacan said the key is to help businesses get the right people to meet their requirements. Category 2, on the other hand, covers areas with limited opportunity for economic growth because of their smaller population and isolation from centers of commerce, such as the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). This category also covers provinces with great tourism potential, Balisacan said. The major antipoverty measure under this category is the implementation of infrastructure projects that will connect them to commercial centers and make them more accessible to tourists. Category 3, meanwhile, includes areas that are most prone to natural calamities and disasters. Examples are provinces in Eastern Visayas, Balisacan said. Measures to fight poverty in these areas include investments in disaster-resilient infrastructure and programs that will enhance local governments’ capacity to respond to disasters.
He noted that disasters, because of the resulting disruption to businesses, have a tendency to pull nonpoor households into poverty. Balisacan said the strategies under each category were formulated according to what government thinks will have the greatest and most immediate positive impact. “The objective is to accelerate poverty reduction. With the plan, [halving poverty incidence] can be achieved much earlier,” Baliscan told the Inquirer. He said trimming poverty incidence by half in less than a decade was possible with the successful implementation of the updated PDP, under which economic growth of above 7 percent is expected to be sustained. Balisacan, who is also director general of the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda), cited the success of other Asian economies in speeding up the pace of poverty reduction. “Experiences of other countries would show how poverty reduction accelerated as they kept a fast pace of economic growth,” he said. The Philippines recently became one of the fastest growing economies in Asia after its economy grew by 6.8 percent in 2012 and 7.2 percent last year. Despite this, the country continued to have one of the highest poverty rates in the region at 25.2 percent in 2012. Balisacan said the antipoverty roadmap should help make the country’s growth inclusive, or felt by the majority of the population. Meantime, Balisacan said the government would augment the budget for the conditional transfer program (CCT), which is implemented across the country to lift more households out of poverty. Under the CCT, the government grants cash subsidies to the poorest households. Household beneficiaries are required to send children to public schools, and the mothers and their children to public health centers for regular checkups in exchange for cash. http://business.inquirer.net/164174/govt‐unveils‐suite‐of‐poverty‐reduction‐measures#ixzz2tYEcs7zR Follow us: @inquirerdotnet on Twitter | inquirerdotnet on Facebook
Go organic with Izumi (The Philippine Star) | Updated February 17, 2014 - 12:00am 0 0 googleplus0 1 MANILA, Philippines - If we want a healthy lifestyle change, this is the best time to go organic. But buying organic fruits, vegetables and meat products can be very prohibitive on our budget. This is where the Izumi pro-organic food sterilizer comes in. The Izumi pro-organic food sterilizer from Aqualipure can turn a hormone-treated beef or chicken into organic meat in just a few minutes. Fruits and vegetables with toxic pesticides becomes very safe to eat it can disinfect everything inside our home. The Izumi pro-organic food sterilizer eliminates growth hormones, additives, pesticides, and bacteria in meat products, chicken, pork, fruits and vegetables by using a highly-sophisticated sterilization method through corona discharge ozone generation. Ozone is the best disinfectant gas in nature. It is capable of destroying a wide range of pathogens, including the disease causing prion without the need for handling hazardous chemicals since the ozone is generated within the sterilizer from medical grade oxygen. Weighing only 1250 grams, the Izumi sterilizer not only cleanses our food but is also capable of eliminating bacteria, virus and other toxins in the air, prevents food contamination, gets rid of foul odor and mildew around the house and can sanitize almost everything that we use. For product demo and other healthy tips, call or txt 0917-512-0421; 0932-878-3287, 806-0031 or visit the Izumi Wellness+Lifestyle store at the 2nd floor of Robinsons Galleria Ortigas. http://www.philstar.com/business/2014/02/17/1291213/go-organic-izumi
CSC voids suspension of worker behind Pilipinas-to-Filipinas exposé By Jerry E. Esplanada Philippine Daily Inquirer 9:41 pm | Sunday, February 16th, 2014
CSC Chairperson Francisco Duque INQUIRER.net FILE PHOTO MANILA, Philippines — The Civil Service Commission (CSC) has declared “void” the Komisyon ng Wikang Filipino’s (KWF) twin directives placing under preventive suspension the agency’s human resource officer who earlier blew the whistle on the KWF head for his unauthorized alteration of the country’s name from Pilipinas to Filipinas. In a 10-page decision, CSC Chair Francisco Duque III and Commissioners Robert Martinez and Nieves Osorio also ordered KWF Chair Virgilio Almario to reinstate Almira Divina Alejandrino to her position “with payment of back salaries and other benefits during the entire duration of her two preventive suspensions.” In the Jan. 30 decision, a copy of which was obtained by the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the CSC said the suspension orders—from Oct. 11 to Nov. 10, 2013, and then Nov. 20 to Dec. 5, 2013— were “not in order.” Almario, a National Artist for Literature, had ordered Alejandrino’s suspension supposedly for loafing during office hours, dishonesty and unauthorized use of a KWF vehicle for a trip to the Court of Appeals. The KWF chief, however, dismissed the administrative charges against Julio Ramos, Alejandrino’s immediate supervisor, who had authorized the use of the agency vehicle. Contacted by phone, Alejandrino welcomed the CSC decision but expressed fear her troubles were not yet over. “Chairman Almario has ordered my suspension anew, this time for one year without pay, for the same offenses,” she told the Philippine Daily Inquirer even as she expressed confidence the commission and Malacañang would not affirm the KWF order.
The KWF is under the Office of the President. Alejandrino said “the KWF continues to give me hell, blaming me for reporting to Malacañang last year the ‘P’ to ‘F’ issue, for being responsible for the three-month suspension of a top KWF official for giving me the dirty finger and for blocking the appointments of three unqualified Almario recruits.” Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Alfredo Benjamin Caguioa, in a letter to Alejandrino, told her they had referred her case to the Discipline Office of the Office of the President for “appropriate action.” In August, Malacañang took Almario to task for tampering with President Aquino’s official message on the 225th birth anniversary of the poet Francisco Balagtas. Undersecretary Manuel Quezon III of the Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office asked Almario to make the necessary corrections in KWF publications and refrain from altering the original message of the President. “Any message of the President cannot be changed or revised without permission from the Office of the President,” Quezon said in Filipino in his Aug. 16 memorandum. The PCDSPO had acquired from Alejandrino a copy of the KWF publication Araw ni Balagtas where the word “Pilipinas” in Mr. Aquino’s message was changed to “Filipinas.” Citing the Constitution, Quezon pointed out that the official title of the President was Pangulo ng Pilipinas, not Pangulo ng Filipinas. In September, Duque described the KWF as “pasaway” (stubborn) for tampering with the official messages of the CSC and three other agencies—the National Commission on Culture and the Arts, the Department of National Defense and the Department of Tourism—on the October celebration of National Language Month. Almario put the blame for the unauthorized “P” to “F” alterations on “our putative overenthusiastic proofreader who may have passionately believed in the wisdom of the language reform we are now undertaking.” But he said it was necessary to promote the “P” to “F” campaign to explain the wisdom of adopting Filipinas as the country’s international name.
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Palace: Senate, House must pass FOI Bill By Delon Porcalla (The Philippine Star) | Updated February 17, 2014 - 12:00am
MANILA, Philippines - Malacañang is monitoring developments in the Senate regarding the Freedom of Information (FOI) Bill. Speaking over state-run dzRB radio yesterday, Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said the Senate and the House of Representatives must pass the bill. “We are awaiting the action that the Senate will take on the matter since it is also an independent body,” he said. “The Senate had already passed that in the past, but the House of Representatives was not able to do so, “ he said in Filipino. “We understand that the two houses of Congress must pass the bill to become law.” Coloma said Malacañang is leaving the matter to the collective wisdom of Congress. “We will just wait for the decision of the Senate committee on public information and its counterpart committee in the House,” he said. “We’ll just wait for it to be finalized, anyway legislation is a task solely for legislators.” Coloma said Malacañang has already submitted its own version of the FOI bill similar to that filed in the 15th Congress. “That is why our position remains that our lawmakers should be given more time to discuss this bill so that they can push through with the provisions that they think are right and are needed in the FOI bill,” he said.
Coloma refused to comment on Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago’s proposal for a mandatory disclosure of all income that each public official receives. “There is no basis for me to say that this is empirically true or that claim is valid,” he said. “Perhaps it would be best if I reserve comment if I don’t have concrete basis anyway.” President Aquino will not certify the re-filed good governance and transparency FOI Bill pending in the Senate. Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said last month Aquino is very circumspect in the use of his powers to declare a certain bill urgent. “He wants to follow it according to what the Constitution intends an urgent bill to be certified. That’s our guiding principle,” he said. “FOI Bill would have to deal (also) with the concerns of the legislative branch. Some legislators have concerns, so those concerns have to be threshed out.” Lacierda said administration critics can describe the move any way they want, but the fact remains that the government is not afraid of any secrets and has been “very open” on issues affecting the country. “You call it a lame excuse, but these are the realities,” he said. “It (FOI Bill) has to go through the legislative mill. Realizing… that you want to institutionalize FOI, that is the work of Congress to do so. “We have never shied away from disclosing what the public deserves to know. This is the administration where you saw a number of data coming out: PDAF, DAP, all the national concerns.” http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2014/02/17/1291301/palace‐senate‐house‐must‐pass‐foi‐bill
COA bares senators’ expenditures for 2012 By Christina Mendez (The Philippine Star) | Updated February 17, 2014 - 12:00am
MANILA, Philippines - Amid the controversy over the excessive bonuses given by former Senate president Juan Ponce Enrile to Senate employees and executives in 2012, he incurred about P63.717 million in maintenance and other operating expenses (MOOE) amounting to about half of his total expenses for that year, a report of the Commission on Audit (COA) showed. But the COA notably did not raise any red flags on the senator’s miscellaneous expenses. At the time Senators Miriam Defensor-Santiago, Alan Peter Cayetano and his sister Pia, and Antonio Trillanes IV attacked Enrile and some members of the then majority bloc in the Senate about the supposed unnecessary bonuses given in December 2012. Enrile explained these were not bonuses but allocations for additional MOOE. The COA’s itemized list of amounts paid to and expenses incurred for each senator and member of the House of Representatives published yesterday showed that Enrile had the highest in terms of additional MOOE, which was pegged at a total of P63.717 million, broken down into other MOOE of the office of the senator at P9.479 million; permanent committee - P4.679 million and then as officer (Senate president) - P 46,559,250. As officers of the Senate, Sen. Vicente Sotto’s combined other MOOE was pegged at P25.415 million, followed by Sen. Jinggoy Estrada with P22.425 million and P22.171 million, all in 2012. Santiago, who has been raising a howl that senators get benefits beyond what is due them under their salary grades, got as much as P21 million under other MOOE, broken down as P10.062 million under office of the senator and P11.004 million under permanent committee.
The other senators who went over the P20 million mark include Joker Arroyo (P22.8 million); Lito Lapid (P24 million); Teofisto Guingona III (P21.1 million); Panfilo Lacson (P21.3 million); Gregorio Honasan (P19.2 million), and Ralph Recto (18.5 million). Officials said senators get extra compensation as member or head of committees. A senator with one or more committees is likely to get the same compensation as member of just one major committee. However, the amount varies in terms of additional allowances if one is a member or chairman. Office rentals and consultancy Based on COA report, Senators Enrile, Edgardo Angara, Estrada, Lacson, Loren Legarda, Aquilino Pimentel III, Sotto and Trillanes were the only senators who hired consultancy services. Enrile incurred the highest expenses under the bracket on professional/consultancy fee at P1.340 million, followed by Estrada with P720,000; Sotto, 636,000; Lacson, P600,000; Pimentel, P470,344.83; Trillanes, P300,000 and Legarda, P17,241.38. The subtotal for professional fee/consultancy was pegged at P4.926 million. For the expenses on rental or office space/equipment, Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. had the highest expenses with P2.439 million, followed by Angara with P1.09 million. Santiago, whom Lacson accused of renting from her family-owned building, charged to the government P840,000 for that year. Meanwhile, Sen. Sergio Osmeña’s rental expenses reached P803,606.60. Guingona’s rental expenses were pegged at P330,000; Lacson, P117,227.88; Sen. Francis Escudero, P188,534.08; Pia Cayetano, P60,098.65 and Estrada, P7,234.14. Trillanes still highest spender But Trillanes remained the highest spender among the 23 senators in 2012. Trillanes spent a total of P61.297 million from January 1 to Dec. 31, 2012, broken down to P31.759 million as his expenses as senator and P29.537 million as permanent committee member. Bulk of Trillanes’ expenses went to salaries and benefits of staff members amounting to P20.829 million as senator; and P17.7 million under permanent member category. On the other hand, Arroyo retained his record as the thriftiest senator in 2012, spending a total of P34.927 million.
Arroyo’s expenses for salaries and benefits were recorded at P3.612 million (Office of the Senator) and P1.8 million (permanent committee). He has held on to his “Scrooge of the Year” title for the past 21 years in Congress. Apart from that, Arroyo had not availed of his Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) during his career as congressman and senator. The expenditures are grouped according to the senator’s salaries, local and foreign travels, salaries and benefits of staff members, meetings and conferences, professional/consultancy fees, supplies and materials, office rental and equipment, extraordinary and miscellaneous expenses, capital outlay and other expenses. Among officers, Enrile, at the time Senate president, understandably incurred the biggest expenses among four executives – including Estrada; Sotto who was the former majority leader, and Alan Peter Cayetano as minority leader. Enrile spent P123.457 million, followed by Estrada with P67.57 million; Sotto with P61.33 million and Alan Cayetano with P 59.788 million. Subtracting their expenses as officers of the Senate, Enrile spent about P52.1 million; Estrada, P57.2 million, followed by Sotto with P50.9 million and then Cayetano with P46.60 million. Joining Trillanes in the top 10 biggest spenders were: Estrada (P57.2 million); Pimentel (P53.875 million); Sen. Bong Revilla (53.634 million); Escudero (P53.47 million); Enrile (P52.1 million); Sotto (P50.9 million); Marcos (P50 million), Sen. Gregorio Honasan (P49.684 million) and Sen. Francis Pangilinan (P49.623 million). Angara spent (P48.521 million); Legarda (P47.287 million); Alan Cayetano (P46.6 million); Lacson (P46.509 million); Recto (P46.235 million); Pia Cayetano (P45.353 million); Lapid (P45.041 million); Guingona (43.667 million); Manny Villar (P43.083 million); Santiago (P42.619 million); Osmeña (P41.489 million); Franklin Drilon (P38.230 million), and Arroyo (P34.927 million). Mar Lipana, resident COA auditor of the Senate, recorded the total Senate expenses for 2012 at P1.202 billion. House spends P2.8 B for salaries, MOOE Meanwhile, the COA report showed that the House of Representatives spent over P2.8 billion for salaries, supplies, maintenance and other operating expenses in 2012. The COA report said a total of P4,087,152,784.67 was disbursed for various expenses of lawmakers and their committees.
The report said the House spent P2,880,238,019 for salaries, foreign and local travels, allocation for staff in district and central offices, contractuals, research, communication expenses, supplies, public affairs, equipment, and for other MOOE. Salaries for the 287 House members totaled P316,407,952 with each lawmaker receiving a total of P1.117 million each from January to December that year. Expenses for foreign travels reached P13,494,534 but not all lawmakers tapped the budget appropriation for this expense as not everyone went on official trips in 2012. “Consultative local travel” expenses of the chamber totaled P233,533,628 while disbursements on research was at P152,895,682. Each congressional office was allocated a uniform P540,000 for the expense that year. The chamber disbursed P287,717,114 for district staff with each office allocated P1.01 million for salaries and MOOE. For central office staff, the House spent P891,796,771 but expenses for each congressional office vary, depending on the position of the lawmaker and the number of committees he handles. Expenditures for contractuals and consultants totaled P263,761,083 while public affairs fund disbursement was at P141,683,332. Spending for communications and supplies reached P53,907,050 and P51,164,752, respectively.– With Paolo Romero http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2014/02/17/1291292/coa‐bares‐senators‐expenditures‐2012
CHED backs 4-day school week By Helen Flores (The Philippine Star) | Updated February 17, 2014 - 12:00am
MANILA, Philippines - The Commission on Higher Education (CHED) has expressed support for a four-day school week in Metro Manila, which aims to ease traffic once the construction of 15 major road projects begins. “A four-day school week is an interesting possibility, but it will have to be studied and planned carefully,” CHED Chairman Patricia Licuanan said. Licuanan said the proposal of Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) Chairman Francis Tolentino to open offsite or satellite campuses in the provinces is not feasible. “Very few HEIs (higher education institutions) have the capacity to transfer their operations to nearby provinces,” she said. Licuanan said a multisectoral group should work out other possible solutions to address traffic problems in the metropolis. Tolentino is pushing for a four-day school week in all elementary and high schools in Metro Manila as traffic is expected to worsen this year due to infrastructure construction. He said the scheme has long been practiced in several countries including the United States. The MMDA chief also proposed the distance learning system or “open university” scheme among universities and colleges in Metro Manila to reduce commuter and vehicular traffic volume on major thoroughfares. Schools may opt to transfer some of their students to their offsite or satellite campuses to lessen their number in Metro Manila. One of the government’s major infrastructure projects this year is the Sky Project Stage 3, which will complete the Metro Manila Skyway System from Alabang to Balintawak. http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2014/02/17/1291284/ched‐backs‐4‐day‐school‐week
DENR: No reclamation of Las Piñas wetland By Christina Mendez (The Philippine Star) | Updated February 17, 2014 - 12:00am MANILA, Philippines - A Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) official assured lawmakers Friday that the Las Piñas-Parañaque Critical Habitat Eco-Tourism Area (LPPCHEA), listed as one of the world’s most important wetlands, will be protected from reclamation attempts. During a hearing of the Senate committee on government corporations and public enterprises, Juan Miguel Cuna, officer-in-charge of the DENR’s Environmental Management Bureau, said environmental considerations were taken up when the environmental compliance certificate (ECC) for the reclamation project was issued. He said one of the conditions set by the DENR prior to the project’s implementation is for its proponents to seek the approval of the Manila Bay Critical Habitat Management Council and the Biodiversity Management Bureau. “If they do not fulfill the condition... they can be penalized for that and the ECC can be canceled or suspended eventually,” Cuna told Sen. Cynthia Villar, who heads the committee, during the hearing.Cuna agreed with Villar that the reclamation project should be suspended if it will damage the wetland. “That is what we want to hear from you. I cannot understand that they will be penalized only and the project will not be suspended because it is not a matter of correcting things that they have done. It is a matter of survival of the critical habitat,” Villar said. Cuna said he will choose to protect the critical habitat over the reclamation project. The LPPCHEA has been identified as one of the areas that will be affected by the planned reclamation in Manila Bay of proponent cities Las Piñas and Parañaque and contractor Altech Inc. The 175-hectare habitat is a protected area under Presidential Proclamation Nos. 1412 and 1412A. It is listed as one of the world’s most important wetlands in the world in the Ramsar List along with the Tubbataha Reef in Sulu and the underground river in Palawan. LPPCHEA boasts of a mangrove forest, a lagoon, a beach and collection of endemic trees. It serves as a sanctuary for dozens of bird species, including migratory birds from as far as Siberia. It is also a resting area for the Philippine duck and Chinese egret. “Our DENR should be consistent, you are there to protect the environment. You are not there to make financial gains,” Villar said. http://www.philstar.com/metro/2014/02/17/1291168/denr‐no‐reclamation‐las‐pinas‐wetland
BSP sees aggressive bank branch network expansion Restrictions set to expire in July By Paolo G. Montecillo Philippine Daily Inquirer 8:05 pm | Sunday, February 16th, 2014
Local banks’ physical networks are expected to expand significantly as regulatory restrictions on the opening of new branches in key Metro Manila cities expire in July this year. Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Deputy Governor Nestor A. Espenilla Jr. said banks had been expanding their network to sustain or grow their respective market shares as the economic boom fueled demand for loans. “You will see the furious construction of branches,” Espenilla told reporters. By July 1, the BSP’s restrictions on the opening of new branches in cities in Metro Manila will expire, allowing banks to set up shop wherever they want. The restrictions were imposed to avoid the overcrowding of banks in the metropolis and, at the same time, encourage the lenders to expand their networks in the provinces. Espenilla said it was part of the BSP’s strategy to let the country’s banks expand to make them more competitive. This comes ahead of the planned integration of Southeast Asia’s banking sector, which would likely take place in 2018.
Having larger networks would allow the local banking sector to at least maintain their dominance over the Philippine market even as foreign banks try to gain a foothold. The expansion of branch networks would also improve the banking sector’s deposit-taking operations and the mobilization of these funds through new loans to businesses and households. Espenilla said the growing income levels in the upper and middle classes had likely led to an improvement in the savings rate of households. Latest data also showed loan growth at 16.4 percent at the end of last year, accelerating from 14.8 percent the month before. This reflects higher demand from both consumers and businesses, he said. He said the liberalization of rules on new branches would also encourage banks to establish operations in underserved locations in the country.
“We recognize the need to include more people in the financial system. One way to get them is to make banks nearer to the public,” Espenilla said. At the end of September last year, the number of bank head offices, branches and other banking offices reached 9,720, up from 9,301 offices at the end of September 2012. Read more: http://business.inquirer.net/164202/bsp‐sees‐aggressive‐bank‐branch‐network‐ expansion#ixzz2tY8sE2xj Follow us: @inquirerdotnet on Twitter | inquirerdotnet on Facebook
Congress OKs creation of single maritime agency Philippine Daily Inquirer 8:02 pm | Sunday, February 16th, 2014 The House of Representatives and the Senate last week passed on third and final reading a bill seeking to create a single maritime administration and streamline all government administrative functions for the training and certification of millions of Filipino seafarers registered with the Maritime Industry Authority (Marina). The seafarers industry is estimated to contribute about $5 billion yearly to the Philippine economy. House Bill 3766 authored by Angkla partylist Rep. Jesulito A. Manalo and Senate Bill No. 2043, authored by Senate President Franklin Drilon, were both approved on Feb. 10. The bill is expected to be signed into law by President Benigno Aquino III by the end of the month. The legislative measure designates Marina as the single and central maritime administration responsible for the enforcement of international agreements of covenants governing the countryâ€™s global maritime professionals. Marina will assume all the powers and functions of the Professional Regulation Commission, Technical Education and Skills Development Authority, Commission on Higher Education, National Telecommunications Commission, and the Department of Health relative to the issuance, validation, verification, correction, revocation or cancellation of certificates of competency, proficiency, endorsement and other documentary evidence required of all seafarers.
Marina will also be mandated to ensure that the examination, licensing and certification system for marine deck and engine officers are in accordance with the requirements prescribed under the 1978 International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (SCTW). The measure is expected to ensure the job security of some 80,000 Filipino seafarers and prevent them from being banned from working in European Union-registered vessels. Drilon said the enactment of the measure would not only guarantee the continued employment of our seafarers, but would also protect our position in the seafarer industry, where Filipino workers were often favored due to their skills and work ethic.
“But more than ensuring our compliance, the passage of this bill will assure that the skills of our seafarers are properly honed through continuous training and updating of the curriculum to be administered by Marina,” Drilon said. Manalo added that the approval of the proposed legislation would reinforce the Philippines’ commitment and full adherence to the International Maritime Organization (IMO), a United Nations specialized agency responsible for the safety and security of shipping. “Once signed, the law ultimately ensures that Filipinos remain the seafarers of choice in the world,” Manalo said.
Read more: http://business.inquirer.net/164194/congress-oks-creation-of-single-maritimeagency#ixzz2tY9fniCI Follow us: @inquirerdotnet on Twitter | inquirerdotnet on Facebook
Nutri-Asia exports seen doubling in 5 years Philippine Daily Inquirer 7:57 pm | Sunday, February 16th, 2014 Food company Nutri-Asia Inc. expects to double its exports in the next five years and maintain its position as one of the leading condiments exporters in the country. The growth in exports will come from the Middle East and North America, which both host large numbers of Filipinos. In 2013, NAI exports rose by 20 percent over 2012 levels. “We are well on track to hitting our targets to double the business,” said Richard Rebollido, the company’s international business manager. Nutri-Asia produces popular brands Datu Puti, UFC, Mang Tomas, Jufran and Papa, Golden Fiesta and Hapi Fiesta for products like vinegar, soy sauce, spaghetti and lechon sauces, cooking oil and banana catsup.
The company’s lineup now includes sweet preserves and Asian noodles. The company’s exports have grown steadily since its first shipment in 1991. In the past four years, sales became more brisk as mainstream stores in the United States, Canada and in the Middle East started to carry its products, Rebollido added. Nutri-Asia products can now be found on the shelves of Safeway, Wal-Mart and Albertsons in the US; and Sobey’s and Loblaws in Canada; Tesco in the UK; and Carrefour and Hyper Panda and Lulu’s in the Middle East. Its other export markets are Asia-Pacific countries with big overseas Filipino population. In Europe, it exports to Austria, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Norway, Spain and Sweden, among others.
Read more: http://business.inquirer.net/164184/nutri-asia-exports-seen-doubling-in-5years#ixzz2tYAXsaU8 Follow us: @inquirerdotnet on Twitter | inquirerdotnet on Facebook
BSP expects more bank mergers By Kathleen A. Martin (The Philippine Star) | Updated February 17, 2014 - 12:00am MANILA, Philippines - The country may see mergers and alliances in the coming years as local banks prepare for financial sector integration in the region, a Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) official said. “We have been signalling to the community that this is in the horizon so (they need to) plan for it, (and) prepare,” central bank deputy governor Nestor A. Espenilla Jr. told reporters. “If they feel they are not big enough, they should have combined or they should have formed alliances. The way to respond to it is not only through mergers and consolidations, they can (also) form strategic alliances,” he continued. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Banking Integration Framework (ABIF), eyed to be achieved by 2020, aims to harmonize principles in the region’s financial sector. The integration will give the region’s banks a bigger market and more opportunities for investments, although domestic banks may encounter difficulties when foreign banks enter their home markets. Espenilla explained that mergers done in the banking community involve two strategic partners eyeing to scale up their businesses, or one strong bank acting as a white knight injecting capital to a weaker bank. But such will be market-driven, he stressed. “The BSP does not really intervene in shaping the industry. It’s a competitive environment: those who want to merge, merge; those who want to exit, exit,” Espenilla said. “It’s a business decision basically and the Philippines is an archipelago, it’s not contiguous, so there are reasons why market logic has shaped many players in multiple markets,” he added. He further said: “In the end, market forces will decide how many should be there but we do have regulatory standards.” The ABIF is only one leg of the ASEAN economic community integration that will be launched 2015. As early as today, Espenilla recounted a number of foreign banks have already expressed interest in penetrating the country’s financial market. “Some of them are interested in our market. We have a fairly attractive market [largely] because we are big in population size,” he noted.
But the Philippines is still far from being ready for the regional banking integration as Republic Act No. 7721 will first need to be amended, Espenilla said. This is because the Act Liberalizing the Entry and Scope of Operations of Foreign Banks in the Philippines and for Other Purposes only allows the entry of 10 foreign banks in the country and these slots are fully taken up today. Local banks have already undertaken aggressive expansion plans as they try to cover bases in the country, seen part of their preparation for the regional banking integration. “Banks need to think how they should be responding to that potential competition but now you can see the response is pretty aggressive,” Espenilla said. “In addition to boosting capital, they are already branching out covering all bases basically. You’ll notice our big banks are expanding in the cities and moving out to provinces... so they’ll be in a good position by the time competition enters,” he continued. http://www.philstar.com/business/2014/02/17/1291185/bsp‐expects‐more‐bank‐mergers
BSP promoting e‐payment shift Category: Top News 16 Feb 2014 Written by Bianca Cuaresma
The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) on Sunday bared a general shift in the manner by which financial transactions are settled from traditional modes of payment toward the electronic realm. In an interview with reporters, BSP Deputy Governor for the Supervision and Examination Sector Nestor Espenilla Jr. said the central bank now consciously promotes cashless transactions going forward as such are considered more transparent and offer potentially lower operating costs. “By going increasingly into electronic payments, then you are promoting efficiency and you are promoting potentially lower cost,” Espenilla said. He also said that some of the “innovations” that customers will increasingly see in the near term are contactless‐payment systems or mobile‐ payment systems as platform for settling financial transactions. He further said electronic payments are “more transparent” than cash equivalents as these leave a trail of data that can be traced if needed, unlike cash transactions that the deputy BSP governor said would always be ”anonymous.” Espenilla also said that in moving toward cashless transactions, Filipinos should have “less need” of automated teller machine (ATM) cards at some point down the line. In a separate development, Espenilla also said the indefinite suspension of transaction fees related to the use of ATMs is still in effect as the BSP continues to assess its impact on the service provided by the banking system and its effect on the banking public. He said that for now, monetary‐policy crafters are preparing to present to the policy‐making monetary board the results of extensive research and surveys on the subject, as well as the recommendations and comments the BSP has obtained from the industry. The BSP earlier issued an order preventing banks from imposing higher ATM transaction charges till after the issue has been thoroughly fleshed out at the regulatory level. This was after the central bank asked the banks to pursue a gradual transition of all ATM systems to a higher level of security in keeping with more advanced systems already in the market. The transition is seen completed in 2017. http://www.businessmirror.com.ph/index.php/en/news/top‐news/27676‐bsp‐promoting‐e‐payment‐ shift
PhilHealth lessens requirements for new applicants by Samuel Medenilla February 16, 2014
To boost its membership, the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) said it will waive some requirements to ease the application process for its new members. In a statement, PhilHealth President Alexander Padilla they will no longer require applicants to present supporting documents like birth certificates or an official I.D. to fast track their processing. He said many interested applicants were not able to register in Philhealth before due to these time-consuming and costly requirements. “The time and money needed to gather numerous documents in the past have made it difficult for many families to avail themselves of the most affordable health insurance in the country today,” Padilla said. “Waiving too many documents at enrollment effectively removes barriers to coverage by making it easier for more Filipinos to register with us,” he added. Under their new registration system, Padilla said new members would only have to fill out a PhilHealth Member Registration Form (PMRF), which is available at their field offices and website at eregister.philhealth.gov.ph. He, however, said they would now have to do so under oath that all the information they provided are authentic. Padilla also noted they may still require some documents for some applicants depending on their case. He said once prospective member have submitted their accomplished forms they will be then given their assigned permanent PhilHealth Identification Number (PIN), which they can use to access their mandated benefits as well as pay for their dues. http://www.mb.com.ph/philhealth‐lessens‐requirements‐for‐new‐applicants/
National government to consult local officials on actual implementation of ‘sin’‐ tax proceeds Category: Nation 16 Feb 2014 Written by Alladin S. Diega / Correspondent
A DISCUSSION on the implementation of the new sin-tax law with local executives of tobaccogrowing provinces and municipalities is set on February 20 and 22, the National Tobacco Administration (NTA) said in a statement on Saturday. An attached agency of the Department of Agriculture (DA), the NTA has invited 87 mayors and 12 governors of areas that produce Burley and native tobacco, on February 20 in Rosales, Pangasinan. A similar consultation, with 72 mayors and four governors from Virginia tobacco‐growing areas, mostly in Ilocos provinces and Abra, is set on February 22 in Candon City. The dialogues with the tobacco industry stakeholders hope to gather input for the revision of the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) on the use of the increased excise taxes imposed on cigarettes. Guidelines for the identification or determination of projects by the local government units that will be funded from the proceeds under the said law are being worked on by the NTA, Department of Finance, and the Department of Budget and Management, according to NTA Administrator Edgardo Zaragoza. Zaragoza said in a statement that with the consultations, the agency “hopes to come up with a range of projects from which executive officials of beneficiary local government units can choose. He said that under the law, a province and a congressional district each get a 30‐percent share, while a town gets 40 percent.” He emphasized that the benefits of projects which the local executives would choose will go directly to the farmers, saying that the “funds will be used for the development or progress of a community.” An initial dialogue with officials and members of the National Federation of Tobacco Farmers’ Associations and Cooperatives (NAFTAC) in Bauang, La Union, was held on February 8. The farmers’ inputs will be used in the preparation of a master plan for the development of the industry, Zaragoza said, assuring the farmers that excise taxes from cigarettes will directly benefit tobacco farmers. http://www.businessmirror.com.ph/index.php/en/news/nation/27669‐national‐government‐to‐consult‐ local‐officials‐on‐actual‐implementation‐of‐sin‐tax‐proceeds
DENR: Reclamation won’t harm eco habitat by Hannah Torregoza February 16, 2014
Manila, Philippines — The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) will ensure that the Las Piñas-Parañaque Critical Habitat Eco-Tourism Area (LPPCHEA) will not be harmed by any planned reclamation project. Juan Miguel Cuna, OIC-Director of the Environment Management Bureau, made this assurance to Senator Cynthia Villar at a hearing of the Senate Committee on Government Corporation and Public Enterprises. Villar had earlier urged the DENR to stop any reclamation projects on LPPCHEA, considered one of the world’s important wetlands of Metro Manila. The government identified the LPPCHEA as one of the areas that will be affected by the planned reclamation in Manila Bay of proponent cities Las Piñas and Parañaque and contractor Altech, Inc. Villar said the 175-hectare habitat is a protected area by virtue of Presidential Proclamation Nos. 1412 and 1412-A and is listed as one of the world’s most important wetlands in the world in the Ramsar List along with the Tubbataha Reef in Sulu and the Underground River in Palawan. Cuna said this critical habitat will be protected from threats of reclamation. According to Cuna, environmental considerations were taken up in the issuance of the project’s Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC). One of the conditions they required prior to project implementation is to seek the approval of the Manila Bay Critical Habitat Management Council and the Biodiversity Management Bureau. “If they do not fulfill the condition, ma’am, they can be penalized for that and the ECC can be canceled or suspended eventually,” Cuna told Villar during the hearing. He also agreed with the senator’s belief the reclamation project should be suspended if it will damage the critical habitat. Cuna said he will choose to protect the critical habitat over the reclamation project. “That is what we want to hear from you. I cannot understand that they will be penalized only and the project will not be suspended because it is not a matter of correcting things that they have done. It is a matter of survival of the critical habitat,” Villar said. LPPCHEA encompasses a mangrove forest, lagoon, beach and collection of endemic trees.
Villar said it also serves as sanctuary for dozens of bird species, including migratory birds from as far as Siberia. It is also a resting area for the Philippine duck and Chinese egret. “Our DENR should be consistent.You are there to protect the environment. You are not there to make financial gains,” Villar told the DENR official. http://www.mb.com.ph/denr‐reclamation‐wont‐harm‐eco‐habitat/
DENR execs, mining firm charged for ecological damage Category: Economy 16 Feb 2014 Written by Manly M. Ugalde / Correspondent
LEGAZPI CITY—The Integrated Bar of the Philippines and former members of the Sangguniang Bayan (SB) of Rapu-Rapu in the province of Albay have filed in court an environmental case for violation of the Environmental Protection Order against Environment Secretary Ramon JP Paje, three officials of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, and four South Korean mining firms and their seven officials. Filed at the Regional Trial Court here on January 16, the four‐page complaint said after raking P65 billion in income during their eight years in copper, gold, silver and zinc mining operation, the accused in apparent neglect and collaboration simply abandoned the mining area and failed to rehabilitate the damaged environment involving 180 hectares of mined sites in the island Rapu‐Rapu town. In its prefatory statement, complainants said that “while Filipinos too often tolerate abuse by visitors who leave their hosts to clean up any mess that is left behind, there are limits in welcoming foreigners to exploits every bit of our country’s natural resources whenever they put our host communities’ environment, as well as their present and future generations at serious risk to incalculable peril and total alienation from their own homeland as our guests way of reciprocating our hospitality and bidding us a cruel good‐bye.” Complainants, led by Marino E Baranda and Giovani B. Guapo were former Rapu‐Rapu SB members among those who endorsed the mining firms’ operations to the DENR. They petitioned the DENR to issue the environment certificate compliance (ECC) for the Rapu‐Rapu mining operation of the then‐ Lafayette Mining Inc. operated by Australian nationals. Included as complainant is also a former vice president for public affairs of the accused mining firms named Cecilia Calleja. The complaint also said barely a year into the Rapu‐Rapu mining operations in 2006, a mine tailing spill occurred that killed fishes in the Albay gulf reaching as far as the sea of nearby Sorsogon province to the grave prejudice of small fishermen. Prompted by demand for the closure of the mining operation from the Church and environmentalists as a result of the mines disaster, then‐ President Arroyo created the Bastes Commission to investigate. Headed by Sorsogon Bishop Arturo Bastes, the probe recommended the closure of the Rapu‐Rapu mines operation. The recommendation, however, was ignored by the Arroyo administration. Two years later, Lafayette Mining Corp. sold its Rapu‐Rapu Mines to the South Korean firm.
Among those charged in the government side were Paje, his Mines and Geoscience Bureau Director Leo Jasareno, Bicol MGB Regional Director Theodore Rommel Pestano and Bicol DENR Executive Director Gilbert Gonzales. At least five South Korean‐owned firms and seven of its officials were among those initially charged. These are the Rapu‐Rapu Minerals Inc. (RRMI), Rapu‐Rapu Polymetallic Project (RRPP), Rapu‐Rapu Processing Inc. (RRPI), Rapu‐Rapu Holdings Inc. (RRHI) and Korea Malaysia Philippines Resources Inc. (KMPRI). Among the mining firm officials charged were Jason Lim (a South Korean), Soon Bang‐ko, Levin Alonso, Rogelio E. Corpuz, Marcial Campos, Ben Dayao and Young Bong‐ha.The complaint sought for a temporary environmental protection order, writ of preliminary attachment and writ of continuing mandamus and damages. The complaint said after the eight‐year contract to operate the mining operation in Rapu‐Rapu town, the South Korean‐owned firms started implementing the closure of their Rapu‐Rapu mining starting on August 30, 2013. The companies, however, said that on September 9, September 11, and October 29 last year, the South Korean firm still managed to make three ore shipments out of the country valued at $12.5 million in blatant disregard of an MGB directive to stop any further shipment pending implementation and completion of the rehabilitation contract for the mined sites. Cecilia Calleja, one of the signatories in the complaint and former vice president for public affairs of the South Korean‐owned RRMI, said the mining operators would simply abandon Rapu‐Rapu without the rehabilitation plan implemented adding that even separated employees have not been paid of the separation pay. Calleja said an amended complaint would be filed to include Gov. Joey Sarte Salceda of Albay in his capacity as member of the Mine Rehabilitation Fund Committee (MRFC) which handles the rehabilitation fund estimated in 2007 at P158 million. The South Korean nationals estimated in 2007 an actual rehabilitation to reach P400 million, Calleja said. She said despite glaring efforts to simply abandon the mined sites without complying the rehabilitation plan, government officials concerned have not shown evident actions to compel the South Korean firms comply with the rehabilitation program. The complaint said the South Korean firm is even exerting too much pressure to the DENR to allow its one last shipment of ore mineral and that if allowed would render Rapu‐Rapu claim for the restoration of its damaged site. http://www.businessmirror.com.ph/index.php/en/news/economy/27665‐denr‐execs‐mining‐firm‐ charged‐for‐ecological‐damage
Family biz benefits mulled by Ellson Quismorio February 16, 2014
Two Mindanao lawmakers proposed the granting of incentives and benefits for family-owned businesses through a measure they filed seeking the approval of a “Magna Carta for Kalakalan Pampamilya (Family Business).” Authors Reps. Rufus Rodriguez (2nd District, Cagayan de Oro City) and his younger brother Maximo Rodriguez (Party-list, Abante Mindanao) said they expect that their bill, House Bill 3315, would be calendared in the 16th Congress. The Rodriguezes said the bill is in response to the effort of alleviating poverty and accelerating economic development by encouraging family members to venture into business enterprises. “If government wants to minimize poverty and hasten economic development, priority programs must be geared towards the development of the family,” stressed the lawmaker-brothers. The bill would augment the income of family members, which can help provide for basic needs, the authors pointed out. Under the measure to be known as Magna Carta for Kalakalan Pampamilya, any family business enterprise with employees of not more than 20 and with assets of not more than P500,000, at the time of registration, are qualified to receive incentives and benefits provided for under the proposed law. http://www.mb.com.ph/family‐biz‐benefits‐mulled/
DENR vows to protect natural habitat from reclamation project by Hannah Torregoza February 16, 2014 (updated)
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) will spare the Las PiñasParañaque Critical Habitat Eco-Tourism Area (LPPCHEA) from any planned government reclamation project, a ranking environmental official has promised. Juan Miguel Cuna, OIC-Director, Environment Management Bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) made this assurance to Senator Cynthia Villar at the hearing of the Senate Committee on Government Corporation and Public Enterprises last week.
Common Koel in LPPCHEA. In this January 2014 photo, the dark-feathered Common Koek, known in the Tagalog region as Bahaw, or Kwahao and Bahao in the Visayas, was spotted for the first time at the Las Pinas-Paranaque Critical Habitat and Ecotourism Area (LPPCHEA) by personnel of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources – National Capital Region (DENR-NCR). The book, A Guide to the Birds of the Philippines, indicate that there are two races of Common Koel thriving in the country, namely Frater race and Mindanesis race, to which this photographed bird belong. It also describes the male species as all glossy blue black, while the female species has streaked chestnut and black on its head, its back is dark brown with rufous spots. Villar had earlier urged the DENR to stop any reclamation projects on LPPCHEA which has been considered one of the world’s important wetlands located in Metro Manila.
The government identified the LPPCHEA as one of the areas that will be affected by the planned reclamation in Manila Bay of proponent cities Las Piñas and Parañaque and contractor Altech, Inc. Villar said the 175-hectare habitat is a protected area by virtue of Presidential Proclamation Nos. 1412 and 1412-A and is listed as one of the world’s most important wetlands in the world in the Ramsar List along with the Tubbataha Reef in Sulu and the Underground River in Palawan. Cuna assured this critical habitat will be protected from threats of reclamation. According to Cuna, environmental considerations were taken up in the issuance of the project’s Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC). One of the conditions they required prior to project implementation is to seek the approval of the Manila Bay Critical Habitat Management Council and the Biodiversity Management Bureau. “If they do not fulfill the condition, ma’am, they can be penalized for that and the ECC can be canceled or suspended eventually,” Cuna told Villar during the hearing. He also agreed with the senator’s belief the reclamation project should be suspended if it will damage the critical habitat. Cuna said he will choose to protect the critical habitat over the reclamation project. “That is what we want to hear from you. I cannot understand that they will be penalized only and the project will not be suspended because it is not a matter of correcting things that they have done. It is a matter of survival of the critical habitat,” Villar said. LPPCHEA boasts of a mangrove forest, lagoon, beach and collection of endemic trees. Villar said it also serves as sanctuary for dozens of bird species, including migratory birds from as far as Siberia. It is also a resting area for the Philippine duck and Chinese egret. “Our DENR should be consistent, you are there to protect the environment. You are not there to make financial gains,” Villar told the DENR official. http://www.mb.com.ph/denr‐says‐natural‐habitat‐wont‐be‐affected‐by‐reclamation‐project/
Pampanga governor wants farmers to venture into cassava Category: Regions 16 Feb 2014 Written by Joey Pavia / Correspondent
PORAC, Pampanga—Gov. Lilia Pineda has urged farmers at Pampanga’s biggest town in terms of land area to plant cassava as the Department of Agriculture (DA) said it is targeting to increase annual production by at least 7 million metric tons (MMT) in 2016. Pineda, who hosted on Valentine’s Day the farmers’ Day in Porac attended by Mayor Condralito “Carling” de La Cruz and Vice Mayor Dexter David, told the 1,000 local farmers in attendance that they should capitalize on the opportunity of planting cassava because it’s one of the most important agriculture crops in the country. Quoting the report of DA Central Luzon Regional Director Andrew Villacorta, the governor said the government agency is planning to increase the volume of cassava production from 2.1 MMT to 8.28 MMT by 2016. She said the DA is aiming to increase the country’s average yearly production from 9.63 metric tons (MT) per hectare to 20 MT per hectare. Pineda said he was informed by high‐ranking San Miguel Corp. officials led by Chairman Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco that they are looking for farmers in Pampanga interested in planting cassava. Pineda and the SMC’s Agri‐Business Development and Operations Group recently urged cassava growers in the province headed by Dr. Richard Torno of Guagua town to formulate and establish a comprehensive plan to develop cassava production. Pineda and Torno’s group have been meeting since last year to push cassava plantation, said Roy Imperial, the governor’s private consultant and former DA executive director of the North Luzon agribusiness quadrangle.
Pineda said the SMC’s B‐MEG brand line is in need of a higher volume of cassava which is a vital ingredient of animal feeds. B‐MEG is one of the top producers of animal feeds for poultries, fighting cock farms and hog raisers in the country. David and his sister, former board member and now the governor’s chief of staff Olga Frances “Friztie” David‐Dizon, hailed Pineda for hosting the annual Farmers’ Day and prioritizing the agricultural sector and ensuring food security. He, Olga Frances and their family own vast tracks of commercial and agricultural lands in Porac and nearby Santa Rita town and they are engaged in sugar‐cane plantation. David said “Porac and our farmers are benefitting from Pineda’s sustained program on agriculture and our town’s advantage is we are free from perennial floods and we are the biggest in terms of land.” Pampanga’s biggest town has an area of about 31,400 hectares. “We will definitely support Pineda in her desire to help our farmers, especially this new venture on cassava plantation,” said de La Cruz, who is pushing agricultural production along with the two‐term vice mayor. Imperial said the planting of cassava has lower risk compared to production of rice and corn. He was referring to the perennial floods and typhoons that hit the province. Imperial said the average yearly income of cassava farmers is about P70,000 per hectare. The rice producers’ earn some P25,000 per hectare annually, while sugar planters take at least P50,000 per hectare on the same period. “Aside from lower risk, the inputs and fertilizers used for cassava plantation is lower compared to the ones used for sugar and rice productions,” Imperial said. At the start of the year, Pineda visited farmers in Candaba and Porac to help them improve their yield on the productions on rice, corn and vegetables. There are at least 32,000 farmers in Pampanga, most of whom are vegetable producers. In Photo: Pampanga Gov. Lilia Pineda (center) holds a newly harvested corn during her recent visit at Santo Rosario, Candaba, Pampanga. Joining her are (from left) Candaba Mayor Rene Maglanque, Pampanga Mayors League President and Apalit Mayor Jun Tetangco, Board Member Ric Yabut, municipal agriculturist Mario Concepcion and local farmers. (Jun Jaso) http://www.businessmirror.com.ph/index.php/en/news/regions/27661‐pampanga‐governor‐wants‐ farmers‐to‐venture‐into‐cassava
Albay governor leads climate change meet in Indonesia February 17, 2014
Albay Governor Joey Salceda will lead the 6th meeting of the Green Climate Fund (GCF) in Bali, Indonesia on February 19 to 21. The meeting which will be co-chaired by Dr. Manfred Konukiewitz of Germany and executive director Hela Cheikhrouhou of Tunisia will focus on gender sensitive issues approach and mechanisms for project grants, fund’s management framework, initial allocations and mechanism terms of reference, and other requirements for initial resource mobilization. Salceda stressed that the GCF sees to it that the ultimate objective of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change will be achieved “in the context of sustainable development”. “Its mission is to promote the paradigm shift towards low-emission and climate resilient development pathways buy providing support to developing countries like the Philippines,” Salceda said. The board members are also expected to report on the initiatives in their countries and on the needs to help address adverse effects of climate change. “Also to be discussed are the options for a Fund-wide gender-sensitive approach; detailed program of work on readiness and preparatory support; financial terms and conditions of grants, and concessional loans and status of resources,” Salceda said. The governor said that a preparatory and informal committee, panel and group meeting was scheduled Monday and Tuesday (February 17 and 18) to discuss the initial approval process that includes the criteria for program and project funding. (Niño Luces and Sarah Imperial) http://www.mb.com.ph/albay‐governor‐leads‐climate‐change‐meet‐in‐indonesia/
Tuna canner plans to expand to other products after IPO Category: Companies 16 Feb 2014 Written by VG Cabuag
CENTURY Pacific Food Inc. expects to grow from its traditional manufacturing of canned goods and expand to new product categories such as coconut water, as it moves to expand its distribution sites. The maker of popular canned goods brands such as Century Tuna, 555 sardines and Argentina corned beef, has applied for a P3.02‐billion initial public offering (IPO) to be held next month. It said in its prospectus that it will start selling its own brand of coconut water beverage starting this year in a move to penetrate new product categories. BDO Capital and Investment Corp., BPI Capital Corp. and First Metro Investment Corp. are the joint lead underwriters for the said IPO. The company is offering 227.35 million common shares at an indicative price at P14.50 per share. The offer period is expected to commence on March 28 and will end on April 3. According to its plan, the company will acquire more “under‐promoted and neglected” brands and turn these into market‐leading brands in the country. “Birch Tree was a strong brand in the Philippines in the 1970s but lost a significant share as it did not receive marketing support for many years prior to the company’s acquisition of the brand in 2003,” it said. From a low market share, Century Pacific said it was able to increase Birch Tree’s market share in the full cream powder segment to about 15 percent in 2012, citing data from AC Nielsen. “The company will continue to seize acquisition opportunities and acquire brands to penetrate new markets,” it said. Century Pacific reported profit of P174.72 million last year, about 64 percent higher than the previous year’s P106.18 million and more than triple its income in 2011 of P56.92 million.
According to its financial statement, about a third of the revenues come from canned and processed fish, reaching P7 billion last year, while 30 percent came from export of tuna, only 24 percent from canned meat and 8 percent from dairy and mixes. The bulk of the estimated net proceeds of the IPO will be spent to repay debts amounting to P1.97 billion to various banks, including Metropolitan Bank and Trust Co., Banco de Oro Unibank, ANZ Banking Group and Security Bank Corp. The remaining P422.1 million will be used for capital expenditures for production capacity expansion. Century Group was founded by Richard Po in 1978 as an exporter of canned tuna. It started selling the Century Tuna brand to the domestic market in 1986. It was only last year, when the Century Group started its corporate reorganization in preparation for the IPO that all the core businesses were folded into Century Pacific Food. http://www.businessmirror.com.ph/index.php/en/business/companies/27649‐tuna‐canner‐plans‐to‐ expand‐to‐other‐products‐after‐ipo
We are ready — Roxas Holdings by James Loyola February 17, 2014 (updated)
Roxas Holdings Inc., the country’s leading sugar producer, is prepared for the ASEAN 2015 economic integration. “We are mindful of the ASEAN Integration in 2015 and we have been putting in the needed measures to face this situation,” said RHI chairman Pedro E. Roxas.
(Starting on February 17 and every Monday thereafter, the Bulletin Business Section will carry candid thoughts and impressions on the run up to the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) 2015 from people from all walks of life – Ed.) He explained that these measures include cost reduction, a redundancy program, and the upgrading of plant facilities to ensure that the sugar they produce will still be competitively priced when tariff barriers against cheaper imported sugar go down from 48 percent in 2019 to just 5 percent next year. Roxas said the major strategic measures to prepare the company for increased global competition in 2015 will improve sugar sales margins and contain production and operating costs. These measures have been credited for the company’s recent turnaround which even allowed it to post record earnings in 2013. RHI president Renato C. Valencia said the cost reduction measures implemented across the Group is gradually paying off and boosting overall operations, particularly in the case of Central Azucarera de la Carlota, Inc. (CACI) in Negros Occidental. “The cost reduction measures had spurred positive results in the Group’s milling operations and relations with planters. In the case of CACI, the fast turnaround of trucks within the district and the services it offers have attracted more planters, even those outside the district, to mill with CACI,” Valencia explained.
RHI has also been beefing up its management team to make sure the right people are in place and ready for the ASEAN integration in 2015. Valencia said Luis O. Villa-Abrille has been promoted senior vice president for Quality Assurance and Business Development which is one of RHI’s newly re-aligned divisions. Under his watch, RHI’s bio-ethanol unit declared its first ever net income through improved operational efficiency and reduced plant shutdowns. Meanwhile, Juan Miguel J. Araneta was named senior vice president for Supply Chain and Special Projects, one of the divisions that were realigned to enable total supply chain management where purchasing, logistics and other areas function as one integrated chain. The unit is considered critical as RHI eyes to create a strong presence in the Asia Pacific Region. http://www.mb.com.ph/we‐are‐ready‐roxas‐holdings/
Climate change real threat, says US envoy By Manila Standard Today | Feb. 17, 2014 at 12:01am By Jo Biddle JAKARTA—US Secretary of State John Kerry will Sunday issue a clarion call for the world to do to more to combat climate change, warning the planet is being pushed to “a tipping point of no return”. In his keynote speech the top US diplomat will highlight the fact that Asian nations, many of them low-lying, are particularly under threat from rising sea levels. “Kerry will call on the global community, not just countries but individual citizens around the world, to do more now because addressing the threat of climate change will require a global solution,” a senior State Department official said. The Secretary of State, who has long been a passionate advocate of the need to protect the environment, arrived in Indonesia late Saturday for bilateral meetings. On Sunday he toured a mosque to pay tribute to the country with the world’s largest Muslim population. Later he was to deliver his speech before Indonesian students and professors at a USrun centre in Jakarta. It will be beamed live to other hubs on the islands of Borneo and Sumatra. Kerry will make “the compelling and undeniable scientific case of this growing challenge that is pushing the planet towards a tipping point of no return”, the State Department official said, asking not to be named. Global warming was threatening not just the environment, but also “the economy and our way of life”, the official said. He will also “underscore the ways in which Asia is particularly impacted”, she added. Along with the United States, Indonesia, an archipelago of 17,000 islands, is one of the world’s biggest carbon emitters -- in Jakarta’s case because of rampant deforestation.
Kerry announced Saturday in Beijing that China and the United States had agreed to share information on their efforts to combat climate change ahead of 2015 UN-led efforts to set emission reduction goals for after 2020. http://manilastandardtoday.com/2014/02/17/climate-change-real-threat-says-usenvoy/
NFA monopoly threatens rice industry By Rey E. Requejo | Feb. 17, 2014 at 12:01am While the country’s leaders continue to be obsessed with the hunt for “illegal rice importers,” two former heads of the National Food Authority were in agreement that flawed government policy, not smuggling, poses the biggest threat to the nation’s rice industry. Anthony Abad explained that smuggling was just one of the many symptoms of a flawed system of rice regulation while Lito Banayo warned that government’s continued monopoly of rice importation could cause NFA’s debt to balloon to as much as P190 billion.
A total of 404,000 bags of rice from Vietnam imported by National Food Authority are being unloaded in a private wharf in Davao City in this file photo. Loaded in two vessels, the rice will be stored in NFA Davao City warehouses of which some of the stocks will be transferred to other provincial offices to ensure that reserves are within ideal level. RENE B. LUMAWAG “Rice smuggling occurs because there is an unmet demand of a hungry population. Smuggling and the illicit importation of rice simply reflect a deficit in supply,” said Abad, a lawyer and international trade expert. At the Senate hearings, so-called “illegal importations” were attributed to the absence of a definitive policy on the World Trade Organization (WTO)-granted “special privilege” of quantitative restrictions (QR) on the importation of rice that had expired in June 2012. During the hearings, the Department of Agriculture maintained that despite its expiration, importation quotas on rice will remain in place until 2017, even as the Philippines has yet to succeed in negotiating an extension with fellow WTO member countries.
But Abad believes otherwise: “When you have an agreement that is time-bound, the “special treatment clause” expires upon the deadline. The Philippines is the only country left that maintains a QR.” The DA and attached agency NFA have been criticized by some sectors for supposedly using QR and the issuance of import permits to maintain a “monopoly” over rice trade. Abad, who was NFA administrator from 2000 to 2002, agreed that the “outdated QR system and government rice monopoly, only lead to high prices, inefficiency, corruption, and smuggling.” In a television interview, Banayo, for his part expressed astonishment at how the agency has come to monopolize rice trade over the last year. “In the third year of this Aquino administration, 2013, I was surprised to read in the papers that it was only the NFA doing the importing, without participation from the private sector,” he said in the vernacular. Supposedly, under the 2010 Food Staples Self-sufficiency Program (FSSP), the country’s rice self-sufficiency roadmap, importation should primarily be the role of the private sector. “The private sector should be the one to import. The NFA should, little by little, remove itself from rice importation and concentrate on local procurement, which we followed for two years,” Banayo, who was administrator during the first two years of the Aquino presidency, described the agency’s thrust under his watch. Moreover, he warned that the NFA’s continued monopoly over rice importation, through government-to-government transactions, is a virtual “white elephant,” costing the country billions in public funds. http://manilastandardtoday.com/2014/02/17/nfa-monopoly-threatens-rice-industry-
Delayed pay? Local govt remedy pushed By Maricel Cruz | Feb. 17, 2014 at 12:01am A ranking administration lawmaker wants to stop the practice of local government units of using their Internal Revenue Allotment as loan collateral which results in delayed payment of salaries, wages and operating expenses, and the accommodation of arrears. House Deputy Speaker and Isabela Rep. Giorgidi Aggabao, in his House Bill 3121, seeks to ensure that IRAs are always adequate to cover the expenditures authorized by the Local Government Code of 1991. “The practice of using the IRA as collateral for loan obligations effectively ties up a portion of the IRA, thus negating the very purpose of the allotment. There results a mismatch in funds to support the costs of mandated functions, thereby resulting in delayed payment of salaries and wages, operating expenses, and accommodation of arrears,” he said. “IRAs have been computed at a level sufficient to cover the costs of devolved functions.” Aggabao proposes the amendment of Section 297 of the Code to regulate the use of IRAs on “Loans, Credits, and other forms of indebtedness of LGUs.” The amendment provides that “A local government unit may likewise secure from any government bank and lending institution short, medium and long term loans and advances against security of real estate or other acceptable assets for the establishment, development, or expansion of agricultural, industrial, commercial, house financing and livelihood projects and other economic enterprises. http://manilastandardtoday.com/2014/02/17/delayed-pay-local-govt-remedypushed/
Caloocan hospital renamed By Jun David | Feb. 17, 2014 at 12:01am Caloocan City Mayor Oscar Malapitan said the President Diosado Macapagal Hospital is now called Caloocan City Medical Center. Under the Local Government Code of 1991, the Sangguniang Panlungsod---in consultation with the National Historical Commission of the Philippines---may rename city hospitals, health centers and other related facilities. “Lalo po nating pag-iibayuhin and serbisyo sa CCMC at sisiguraduhing libre ang konsultasyon ng mga mahihirap na residente (We will upgrade the service at CCMC and make sure that indigent residents get free consultation),” Malapitan said. A fun run was held at 5 a.m. before Bishop Francisco de Leon celebrated the 8 a.m. Thanksgiving mass at the city hall’s plaza along A. Mabini Street. Joining Malapitan during the unveiling of CCMC’s name plate were Councilor Onet Henson, CCMC Administrator Dr. Fernando Santos, hospital director Dr. Madeline Grace Ronan and radiologist Dr. Osmundo Villanueva. Also present were City Administrator Oliver Hernandez, City police commander Senior Supt. Bernard Tambaoan, Building Official chief Engr. Godofredo Gravador, and Public Safety Chief Larry Castro. http://manilastandardtoday.com/2014/02/17/caloocan-hospital-renamed-/
Idle LPG depot eyed to avert crisis By Manila Standard Today | Feb. 17, 2014 at 12:01am House Deputy Minority Leader Arnel Ty has called for the government takeover of another idle LPG) import terminal, this time in Sariaya, Quezon, to help relieve a menacing supply disruption caused by the ill-timed decommissioning of the country’s largest cooking fuel depot in Tabangao, Batangas. “We’ve strongly recommended to Energy Secretary (Carlos Jericho) Petilla the temporary government takeover and reactivation of the Siriaya, Quezon LPG terminal of Nation Petroleum Corp., which is under rehabilitation,” said Ty, who speaks for the minority bloc in the House committee on energy, and represents the LPG Marketers’ Association (LPG-MA) in Congress.
A worker arranges LPG tanks at a warehouse in Manila.Consumers may have to brace for another hike in the prices of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) over a tightening supply. EY ACASIO The Nation Petroleum depot, capable of handling 5.5 million kilos of LPG, would help prevent supply shortage due to the permanent closure of Pilipinas Shell Petroleum’s 47-million kilo cooking gas terminal in Batangas, according to Ty. “We’d still prefer the government takeover and reopening of Shell’s decommissioned terminal, which has a much larger storage capacity, and which can surely provide greater relief to LPG suppliers as well as consumers,” Ty said. “Due to economies of scale, we reckon that imported LPG coming in via Shell’s reactivated terminal will easily be at least P3-per-kilo cheaper when compared to (LPG) coursed through Nation Petroleum’s much smaller station,” Ty said.
He added: “There’s no need for a declared emergency to justify the State-induced reopening of Shell’s terminal. Government won’t be assuming ownership of the private facility, but will merely be temporarily running the depot to allow LPG throughputting. The terminal is already of no use to Shell anyway.” The Department of Energy may facilitate LPG throughputting agreements, using the Shell terminal for 36 months -- the time needed for other oil firms to put up new stations, Ty said. A throughputting agreement is a commercial arrangement to put a specified amount of product per period through a particular facility. An example is a transaction to transfer a specified amount of LPG per period through Shell’s terminal once it is restarted by the DOE. Ty reminded the DOE that by law, it is duty-bound to ensure stable, secure, sufficient and accessible energy, including LPG supplies. He said Congress only recently passed a law which classified household LPG as a national “basic necessity.” He was referring to Republic Act 10623, An Act Providing Protection to Consumers by Stabilizing the Prices of Basic Necessities Against Undue Price Increases During Emergency Situations. http://manilastandardtoday.com/2014/02/17/idle-lpg-depot-eyed-to-avert-crisis-/
Cloudy, rainy in Mindanao By PNA | Feb. 17, 2014 at 12:01am The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical, and Astronomical Services Administration on Sunday said cloudy and rainy weather would prevail in Mindanao for the next three days owing to the presence of a low pressure area outside the Philippine Area of Responsibility. PAGASA weather forecaster Connie Dadivas said that although the LPA has a slim chance of entering the country, its trough or extended clouds would bring cloudy skies with light to moderate rains over Mindanao until Tuesday. Dadivas said that the LPA also has little chance to develop into a tropical cyclone. But in case it enters the country and intensifies into a tropical depression, she said it would be named â€œCaloy,â€? the third cyclone to affect the country this year. Dadivas forecasted that the regions of Davao and SOCCSKSARGEN would be cloudy with light to moderate rainshowers and thunderstorms. Metro manila and the rest of the country would continue to have partly cloudy to cloudy skies with possible occurrence of light showers due to the cold northeast monsoon affecting Luzon and Visayas. She added that the regions of Cagayan Valley, Cordillera and Bicol and the provinces of Quezon and Aurora would experience cloudy skies with light rains, the Metro Manila, the rest of Luzon and Visayas would have partly cloudy to cloudy skies with isolated light rains while the rest of Mindanao would be partly cloudy to cloudy with isolated rainshowers or thunderstorms. In its advisory, PAGASA said that moderate to strong winds blowing from the northeast would prevail over Luzon and Eastern Visayas and from northeast to north over the Caraga and Davao Region. The coastal waters along these areas will be moderate to rough. http://manilastandardtoday.com/2014/02/17/cloudy-rainy-in-mindanao/
DOJ: Tuason makes case vs JPE; Trillanes dissents By Rey E. Requejo | Feb. 17, 2014 at 12:01am JUSTICE Secretary Leila de Lima on Sunday said there is sufficient evidence to pin Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile to the pork barrel scam, even though witness Ruby Tuason never handed him any money directly. In her sworn statement, Tuason said she delivered kickbacks only to Gigi Reyes, Enrile’s resigned chief of staff, and that the senator never referred to the cash payments. But De Lima said both documentary and circumstantial proof was enough to make the case against Enrile. “For us, the totality of the circumstantial evidence and documentary evidence would suffice,” she said, referring to documents gathered by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI). These documents pointed to several transactions and cash deliveries between the alleged mastermind of the scam, Janet Lim Napoles, and Enrile’s trusted aide, Reyes. De Lima also cited the requests and endorsements of projects in favor of bogus nongovernment organizations set up by Napoles. “Who is Attorney Gigi Reyes? She is perceived to be very close and very trusted by Senator JPE (Enrile) who has this ostensible authority to deal with anyone on behalf of Senator JPE,” De Lima pointed out. She added that Tuason’s recollection that Enrile picked up Reyes on two occasions after she had met with Tuason would provide circumstantial proof of complicity on the part of the minority leader. De Lima added that more direct testimony could surface before the actual trial.
“Sometimes, it’s about the manner of questioning. A skillful trial lawyer would be able to really extract all those other details in the course of the trial proper, in this case in the Sandiganbayan,” De Lima added. De Lima’s statements came in the wake of criticism from administration ally Senator Antonio Trillanes IV that said Tuason’s testimony fell short of directly implicating Enrile. Trillanes said Sunday the government may not even need testimony from Tuason, whom he accused of holding back what she knew. Enrile has denied dealings with Napoles and said Reyes was not authorized to handle his Priority Development Assistance Fund, the official name of pork barrel. A day before Tuason testified before the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee on Thursday, Enrile admitted that Tuason was “a casual acquaintance.” “I must admit she’s a casual acquaintance,” Enrile said, when sought for comment on Tuason’s claim that she delivered kickbacks intended for the minority senator through Reyes. Enrile said he had lunch with Tuason either in late 2006 or early 2007, with Reyes around, to discuss the sale of a property. He said this was the only time he personally met Tuason. “The only time that I met her is in Mamou, a very crowded restaurant. And it was not to discuss the PDAF or to receive a bribe, but I was discussing with her a prospective property transaction. That was about it,” Enrile said. He said he brought Reyes along so she could record the details of the meeting with Tuason since he was hard of hearing. Tuason, who is among more than 30 people charged with plunder or malversation, returned to the country last Feb.7 to turn state witness in the pork barrel scam. She said she personally delivered the kickbacks to Sen. Jinggoy Estrada and also to Reyes for Enrile. Tuason has been placed under provisional coverage of the witness protection program after submitting her sworn statement to the Ombudsman office, which is now conducting a preliminary investigation of the case.
With Tuason’s testimony, De Lima said prosecutors would no longer need Napoles as a possible state witness. “As of now, I don’t see her as a possible state witness. I don’t think she qualifies as such,” De Lima said, in a text message. De Lima said Napoles cannot qualify as state witness because she continued to insist on her innocence in both the PDAF and Malampaya scams. “More than that, available evidence thus far gathered and presented before the Ombudsman point to her as the most guilty or one of the most guilty, being the center, focal point and initiator of those anomalies,” she said. Nonetheless, De Lima expressed hopes that Napoles would just “tell all, irrespective of her eligibility as a state witness.” “We’re all earnestly interested on what she has to say. She alone knows the whole truth, assuming she does intend to tell the truth and the whole naked truth,” she said. De Lima said others linked to the PDAF scam have sent feelers about cooperating with the government. Among them are Dennis Cunanan, general manager of the Technology Resource Center and actor Mat Ranillo III, she said. Also, Pauline Labayen, the former appointments staff of Estrada, is reportedly set to surface and also testify against the senator. In an interview on dzBB, Trillanes said the government could deny Tuason her state witness status. “If that is all she has to offer, she should simply be treated as an accused,” he said in Filipino. “The government is on the losing side because by her own admission, she played a major role in the scandal, but all she gave us was this insubstantial testiomy.” But Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago said Saturday that the mere presence of Enrile when Reyes met with Tuason was enough proof of a conspiracy, and proves the senator’s guilt “to a moral certainty.”
â€œIt is now obvious that Tuason was covering up for Enrile, so that the entire criminal liability for plunder could be shifted to Reyes alone. That is devious of Tuason, and heartless of Enrile. He is ready to sacrifice Reyes to save himself,â€? Santiago said. With Joel E. Zurbano http://manilastandardtoday.com/2014/02/17/doj-tuason-makes-case-vs-jpetrillanes-dissents/
Palace, Metro brace for traffic jams By Joyce Pangco Panares | Feb. 17, 2014 at 12:01am PRESIDENT Benigno Aquino III will observe this year’s anniversary of the 1986 People Power Revolution in Malacañang instead of Edsa to avoid causing more traffic as the construction of Stage 3 of the Skyway project starts today. “For the interest of the people and in order to avoid additional traffic problems in Edsa, the Malacañang Palace grounds will be the center of the celebration on February 25,” Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Sonny Coloma said. He appealed to the public for understanding. “We call on our people to share in the burden of sacrifice and bear with short-term inconvenience so we can build better roads that will ensure faster travel and more productive living in our highly congested National Capital Region,” Coloma said. The elevated six-lane, 14.8-kilometer Stage 3 of the Skyway will connect the North Luzon Expressway and the South Luzon Expressway by 2016. at a cost of P26 billion. Citra Central Expressway Corp., the company that will build the project, says an advance work site will be set up today on the center island of Osmeña Highway from Buendia in Makati to Quirino Avenue in Manila. Two southbound inner lanes between F. Torrest Street and Arellano Avenue will be closed, but the three northbound lanes will remain passable. The motorists wishing to avoid the highway may take the alternative routes provided by the government. Manila-bound motorists using the Skyway-SLEX exit may exit at Magallanes, Don Bosco or Amorsolo. When Aquino attended the launching of Stage 3 in January, he acknowledged that the project will result in a barrage of criticisms because of the expected traffic jams. “Because of the initial traffic that this project will cause, I can imagine our critics are already waiting to oppose this project,” Aquino said.
For this year’s People Power commemoration, Coloma said, the traditional “salubungan” of the key players during the peaceful revolt in 1986 would also be held at the Palace. He said there will be a “pulong-bayan” where the President will discuss issues with representatives from various sectors. “We want to listen to the sentiments of the various sectors of society,” Coloma said. “There is no list yet of individuals or organizations who will attend and we will be announcing this in the coming days.” Coloma said the Aquino administration also wanted to shift the focus of the celebration from the heroism of those who participated in the 1986 revolution to the bayahanihan spirit of the Filipinos in times of calamity. “We want to highlight the efforts of people in improving their lives, teamwork and concern for one another in times of need,” Coloma said. http://manilastandardtoday.com/2014/02/17/palace-metro-brace-for-traffic-jams/
Drilon shows how to declog Sandigan By Macon Ramos-Araneta | Feb. 17, 2014 at 12:01am SENATE President Franklin Drilon wants the Sandiganbayan to focus on significant graft cases, and to transfer jurisdiction to hear and decide “minor cases” to the Regional Trial Courts. “The list of pending cases at the country’s anti-graft court is not getting any shorter, given the strong resolve of the administration to purge the government of corrupt individuals and finally halt the culture of corruption in the bureaucracy,” he said. About 50 percent of Sandigan pending cases “can actually be heard faster by the regional trial courts.” Drilon backlog is traced to the law vesting in the Sandiganbayan the jurisdiction over all graft cases involving public officials occupying Salary Grade 27 and above regardless of the “nature and gravity” of the offense. “As a consequence, the country’s anti-graft court has to deal with even the most minor of cases, thus further aggravating its workload,” he said. Drilon said minor cases “are those where the information does not allege any damages or bribes, alleges damages or bribes that are either unquantifiable or not quantified, or alleges quantified damages or bribes amounting to P1 million only or less.” He said the expertise and competence of a trial court judge is “more than sufficient to hear such kind of cases.” http://manilastandardtoday.com/2014/02/17/drilon-shows-how-to-declogsandigan /
Storm of protests set By Joyce Pangco Panares | Feb. 17, 2014 at 12:01am Yolanda survivors, militants vow to surge at Palace gates SURVIVORS of super typhoon Yolanda plan to storm Malacañang today as they warned that President Benigno Aquino III is “criminally liable for the government’s slow and insensitive action on the rehabilitation and reconstruction of calamity-stricken areas.” Sister Edita Eslopor, chairperson of the 12,000-strong alliance of Yolanda survivors called People Surge, said they are not ruling out the possibility of filing criminal charges against the President and government officials responsible for the rehabilitation and reconstruction program.
100 days later. Tacloban Mayor Alfred Romualdez (leftmost), his wife Councilor Cristina Romualdez, other city officials and representatives from various NGOs and international humanitarian groups and the interfaith sectors gather at the Tacloban Astrodome on Sunday 100 days after super Yolanda hit the Visayas. “We will surge in Metro Manila streets...The situation is getting worse for the people of Eastern Visayas,” said the Benedictine nun in a statement to mark the 100th day afer the storm.
Simultaneous protests will be staged in Mendiola, in Manila, and in Tacloban City, where the bulk of protesters will gather. “The people need more than relief operations that will not last forever...But because they still live in uncertainty a hundred days after the storm, the Aquino government only reinforces their fears for the future,” Eslopor added. “The people are suffering, and they are seething because the government cannot assure the most basic needs such as food, livelihood, housing and social services.” In Tacloban, Mayor Alfredo Romualdez told a crowd gathered to commemorate the 100th day since the storm that they were heroes for having survived Yolanda. He also denied allegations that Eastern Visayas was unprepared for the storm, or rumors that the commercial hub would be transferred elsewhere. Romualdez urged his constituents to gain strength by keeping in their hearts and minds the memories of their loved ones, and to show the whole world what they can do with the help they are getting from the international community. “We will show them that we will be empowered and we will bring a stronger city and most of all we will build now a stronger family. We will show them the real and true image of a Taclobanon,” he said. Eslopor said protesters would bring with them a petition signed by the survivors demanding P40,000 in financial assistance per family as well as for the lifting of the nobuild zones along coastal areas that have been identified as danger zones by the government.
The scenes of destruction in the city and protesters (topmost) at the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City, slamming the poor government efforts to help the victims. â€œWe abhor the heartlessly callous government of Aquino who, instead of prioritizing and consulting the victims of Typhoon Yolanda on what they actually need, has appointed a blood-stained military man to take charge of its cold-hearted efforts of reconstruction that focuses on graft-ridden infrastructure for its business allies instead of social support to the farmer and urban poor who have no opportunity to get
back on its feet immediately,” Eslopor added, referring to presidential assistant on rehabilitation and recovery Panfilo Lacson. In a phone interview, Lacson denied that the government had been slow in responding to the needs of the calamity survivors. “If we go by the experiences of other countries that were hit by similar calamities, we are not slow. Bandah Aceh for example was hit by a deadly tsunami in December 2004. They had not started to implement their rehabilitation blueprint until after Dr. Kuntoro Mangkusubroto was appointed rehabilitation czar in April 2005,” Lacson told Manila Standard. “(Hurricane) Katrina (in the United States), Haiti (earthquake) and other rehabilitation efforts in the other parts of the world took even longer periods to accomplish their reconstruction work. Having said that, the government is exerting all efforts to speed up the reconstruction and rehabilitation efforts by applying some out-of-the-box approaches without sacrificing the call of President Aquino to build back better,” he added. Lacson was appointed less than a month after super typhoon Yolanda devastated 171 cities and municipalities on Nov. 8, mostly in Eastern Visayas. “We are improvising a bottom-up approach to expedite the process of the post disaster needs assessment (PDNA) in accordance with United Nations protocol. We do this by going down to the local government units and not wait for the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council to finish the PDNA,” he said. “Still, close consultation and coordination with the critical national line agencies will be done before implementing the LGU-prepared rehabilitation and development plans based on their individual needs assessments,” Lacson added. Eslopor, however, insisted that Yolanda survivors have all the just reasons to criticize the Aquino government. She said that despite the billions of pesos in donations and three months after Yolanda struck, calamity victims are still suffering. “They have no food to eat, no shelter above their heads and no livelihood to help them survive. This government has apparently forgotten and forsaken them,” she said.
“This government has also turned the rehabilitation into a racket with substandard and overpriced infrastructures like bunk houses and tents. This is the true picture of daang matuwid (straight path),” Eslopor added. Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma said the government is expediting efforts to ensure that lives of Yolanda survivors return to normal at the soonest possible time. “The government is firmly determined to carry out massive rehabilitation efforts in all 171 municipalities and cities affected by this unprecedented calamity,” Coloma said. “We realize that despite its best efforts, government is unable to adequately respond to all the needs of all the affected families and individuals. We continue to welcome suggestions on how we can improve our response and assistance. We will act on reports of abuse or anomaly in the provision of relief services,” he added.
A civic group, One Tacloban, laid down over 10,000 balloons along the highway in Tacloban City to commemorate the tragedy. AFP, with Manny Palmero and LGU Tacloban Facebook Coloma said the President has also directed members of the Cabinet to prepare a detailed roadmap for effective response to disasters before the onset of the rainy season in June. “This will include adoption of new emergency alert protocols for storm surge, floods, and landslides; strict implementation of no-build zones along coastlines; and higher standards for disaster resiliency of buildings and infrastructure,” Coloma said.
The militant group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, however, said the “privatized reconstruction” in calamity-hit areas will not really address the needs of Yolanda survivors. “Privatized reconstruction under the Aquino regime will not work for the people. The thrust of this framework is the development of business, and not the actual needs of the people, especially those in agriculture and fisheries,” Bayan secretary-general Renato Reyes Jr. said. “The entire Visayas has been subdivided among the biggest businesses in the country, supposedly for reconstruction and rehabilitation. The disturbing thing is that people’s needs are not at the center of this program. Government wants to take a back-seat and let big business take over,” he added. The 171 cities and municipalities affected by Yolanda were divided into 24 areas of intervention and development or AID. Eighteen AID areas have been adopted by companies such as PLDT-Smart-Metro Pacific Group, ICTSI Group, Metrobank, Injap Group, Lopez Group, Aboitiz Group, and the Engineering Equipment Inc. of the Yuchengco Group. Based on a study conducted by the People Surge, more than 2 million farmers and fisheren in Eastern Visayas alone were affected by the typhoon. Its own estimate is that the total damage to agriculture would reach up to P64 billion. This includes coconut production losses valued at P41.958 billion, P6.428 billion damage to the fishing industry, P5.695 billion damage to banana plantations, P3.462 billion damage to palay (unhusked rice), and P6.5 billion damage to livestock and root crops, abaca, corn and vegetables. “Eighty percent of the population in the Eastern Visayas region rely on agriculture yet this will receive the lowest budgetary priority under the government’s reconstruction framework,” Eslopor said. “The delay is proving deadly to the urban and rural poor who were left in dire straits. The peasants are living at the subsistence level already, with no foreseeable income, and are vulnerable to usury. Families in interior villages usually alternate root crops with rice, eating rice only one to two times a day. But with root crops heavily damaged by the
typhoon, they are now consuming rice two to three times daily, thus, rapidly diminishing their rice supply. Worse, they are forced to sell their rice because their sources of cash crops have been damaged,â€? Eslopor said. â€“ With Ronald O. Reyes and PNA http://manilastandardtoday.com/2014/02/17/storm-of-protests-set-/
More Metro branches to open By Julito G. Rada | Feb. 17, 2014 at 12:01am The Bangko Sentral will go ahead with the lifting of the bank branching restriction in Metro Manila on July 1 this year, as a part of the liberalization of the banking industry. Bangko Sentral Deputy Governor Nestor Espenilla Jr. said over the weekend banks could establish branches anywhere in Metro Manila starting July, as long as they paid the corresponding license fee of P20 million per branch. He said the move was in line with the timetable earlier set by the bank regulator. Banks were previously restricted from opening new offices in the cities of Makati, Mandaluyong, Manila, Parañaque, Pasay, Pasig and Quezon and the municipality of San Juan. “We signaled all of these to the banking industry. [But] basically what happens is, they’ll pay a special license fee for a branch. If you want 10 branches, then you pay a special license fee of P20 million per branch [in Metro Manila],” Espenilla told reporters. “Actually, before there was no fee, because branching was restricted. But now, they can expand but with a corresponding license fee,” Espenilla said. “There was a time when branching was totally restricted except for areas that have no banking offices. Then we liberalized by saying, you may now branch anywhere in the Philippines except in the eight cities [in Metro Manila], being restricted cities,” Espenilla said. Espenilla also said the banking sector continued to be a healthy industry as banks, especially the big ones, established branches even in the provinces. He said the aggressive expansion was evident in the Bangko Sentral’s quarterly report, which monitored the numbered of approved bank branches. “If you are raising capital, you have to make the money worth also. That is why they are deploying and you’ll see they are mobilizing more deposits also in the provinces. They continue to give loans. So these are all signs of a very healthy and competitive banking industry,” Espenilla said.
The Bangko Sentral approved 143 applications for new banking offices in the third quarter of 2013, matching the same number recorded in the previous quarter. Data from the Bangko Sentral’s supervision and examination sector showed that universal and commercial banks accounted for 102 branches. Thrift banks applied for 21 new branches while rural and cooperative banks, sought 20. The Bangko Sentral said 192 banking offices opened in the third quarter, up by 126 percent from the 85 units in the second quarter. Meanwhile, Espenilla said bank mergers were expected to continue. “There are mergers happening for strategic reasons where both banks see benefits in combining. But there are some banks basically acting as ‘white knights’ in a weak-bank scenario. So for the weak bank, they want to be acquired to be rehabilitated. And the only way for them is to get a white knight,” he said. http://manilastandardtoday.com/2014/02/17/more-metro-branches-to-open/
January coconut oil exports sank 47% By Anna Leah G. Estrada | Feb. 17, 2014 at 12:01am Coconut oil shipments, the country’s top farm export, shrank 46.5 percent year-on-year in January 2014, following the extensive damage caused by super typhoon Yolanda in November last year, the United Coconut Association of the Philippines said over the weekend. UCAP executive director Yvonne Agustin said coconut oil exports in January reached 72,470 metric tons, down from 135,432 MT sold a year ago. “The January 2014 is within the normal range of monthly target shipment export this year. This year, we are looking at lower target export at 850,000 metric tons because of the effect of typhoon Yolanda,” Agustin said. “The extent of the effect of the typhoon to CNO shipments is yet to be fully determined but should be felt in next month’s shipment,” Agustin added. Coconut oil exports exceeded the 1.1-million MT target in 2013, despite the lower prices in the world market. Agustin said coconut oil shipments in 2013 surged 32 percent to 1.126 million MT from 852, 234 metric tons in 2012, on strong production in the first half. “We were able to exceed our target despite a slowdown in the second half of last year,” Agustin said. The total value of coconut oil exports in the whole of 2013, however, fell 8.7 percent to $950.5 million from $1 billion in 2012, because of depressed prices. Agustin said typhoon Yolanda’s impact on the supply of coconut would be felt until 2018. “We expect the impact on the supply to be felt starting this year, and may last for the next four years,” she said.
More than 70 percent of total crop area in major coconut-producing regions in the central parts of the country was affected by the onslaught of typhoon Yolanda on Nov. 8. Coconut oil exports in December dropped 12.6 percent year-on-year to $81.5 million, offsetting the strong shipments in the earlier part of the year. This dragged down total agriculture exports by 27.8 percent to $274.4 million in December. “The lower outward shipments of coconut products in December 2013, which account for about 40 percent of the total agro-based exports, was mainly due to the adverse effects of super typhoon Yolanda as 73 percent of total crop area in major coconut-producing regions was damaged,” Economic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan said, in explaining the lower farm exports. “The combined destructions in plantations and milling facilities tightened the coconut supply and this resulted in large declines in the volume shipments of coconut products such as desiccated coconut, copra meal/cake and coconut oil,” he said. http://manilastandardtoday.com/2014/02/17/january-coconut-oil-exports-sank-47-/
SRA cuts allocation for sugar exports on rising local demand By Anna Leah G. Estrada | Feb. 17, 2014 at 12:01am The Sugar Regulatory Administration has reduced the sugar allocation to the export market because of lower production forecast and rising domestic demand. SRA administrator Regina Martin issued Sugar Order No. 1-A for crop year 2013 to 2014, allocating 92 percent of the expected 2.35 million metric tons of sugar harvest for the domestic market. It allocated 6 percent for the world market and 2 percent for the US sugar quota. Sugar allocation for the world market was reduced by half from 12 percent under the previous target. The sugar crop year starts in September and ends in August of the following year. SRA announced last year allocation for the domestic market would be 86 percent, while that for the world market would be 12 percent, with the US sugar quota getting the remaining 2 percent. Martin, however, said the previous allocation should be revised, as the “local demand or consumption is increasing.” SRA also revised downward the production forecast for the current crop year to 2.35 million MT from the earlier estimate of 2.45 million MT. Sugar production in crop year 2012 to 2013 was placed at 2.25 million MT. “The SRA conducted periodic assessments wherein it was determined that due to the adverse effects of severe climatic disturbances befalling the country which directly impacted sugar production, our total national sugar production will be reduced to more or less 2.356 million metric tons,” Martin said. “It is projected that our domestic sugar buffer stock at the end of the crop year will be at a critical level, if and when the sugar production percentage allocation will not be adjusted,” Martin said.
Sugar production as of Jan. 26 reached 1.3 million MT, down from 1.4 million MT recorded during the same period last year. http://manilastandardtoday.com/2014/02/17/sra-cuts-allocation-for-sugar-exportson-rising-local-demand/
Stocks expected to rise this week By Jenniffer B. Austria | Feb. 17, 2014 at 12:01am Stocks are expected to move sideways this week, with an upward momentum as foreign funds are slowly coming back to the local equities market amid the positive outlook on the domestic economy, analysts said over the weekend. “Foreign investors were net buyers of Philippine stocks in the last six trading days, indicating that funds are slowly creeping back and a semblance of possible reversal is at hand,” BDO Unibank chief investment strategist Jonathan Ravelas said. Investors are also positioning ahead of the release of corporate earnings, analysts said. DA Market Securities, however, said while the recent rally pushed up the index above the 6,000-point level, investors should watch how the 6,000 level would hold, as breaking the support could lead to a retest of the market’s recent low of 5,678. “Accumulate slowly or wait for better bottoming signals,” DA Market said. The PSEi, the 30-company benchmark index of the Philippine Stock Exchange, gained 1.7 percent last week to close at 6,113.66 on Friday, while the all-share index rose 1.4 percent. “The local stock market enjoyed a good six-day run, coming from investors positioning their portfolio ahead of earnings report, a message perceived to be positive by the market from Fed Chair Janet Yellen, and upbeat economic data in China,” Ravelas said. All the major sub-indices ended in the green, led by the financial sub-index which increased 4.7 percent, the industrial sub-index which climbed 3.43 percent and the holdings sub-index which advanced 2.2 percent. Overseas investors were net buyers last week by P1.42 billion, as foreign selling amounted to P17.36 billion against foreign buying of P18.75 billion. Weekly top price gainers included Roxas and Co. Inc., which gained 26 percent to P4.41; Seafront Resources Corp., which advanced 21.9 percent to P1.95; and Apex Mining Co. Inc., which rose 16.9 percent.
Weekly top price losers were MacroAsia Corp., which declined 22.8 percent to P2.20; Nextstage Inc., which shed 15.6 percent to P2.61; and Philippine Bank of Communications, which dipped 11.5 percent to P60.20. Among the companies that reported positive earnings last week were Universal Robina Corp., Roxas Holdings Inc. and Jollibee Foods Corp. Globe Telecom Inc. and Robinsons Land Corp. reported weak earnings last week. The telecom company said net income in the whole of 2013 reached P4.9 billion, down 28 percent from P6.8 billion in 2012, while Robinsons Land registered a 13.2-percent drop in the October-December period to P1.03 billion, due to effects of typhoon Yolanda and a fire that hit Robinsons Galleria Ortigas. http://manilastandardtoday.com/2014/02/17/stocks-expected-to-rise-this-week/
Villar donates roofs By MST Business | Feb. 17, 2014 at 12:01am Villar Group chairman Manny Villar has personally supervised the distribution and installation of roofing materials, which he donated in typhoon Yolanda-devastated communities in Iloilo, Capiz and Aklan. Villar went from town to town to distribute the roof sheets for the rebuilding and repair of schools and houses affected by the typhoon. Thousands of families in eight towns in Iloilo, including Ajuy, Lemery, Passi City, Sara, Balasan, Estancia, Carles and Concepcion, benefited from Villar’s roofing project. The towns of Altavas, Batan, Ibahay, Balete in Aklan and Pontevedra, Sigma, Dumarao and Tapaz in Capiz also received roofing materials from Villar. “In our own capacity, we are continuously helping the survivors. They need our help. Little by little, we are doing what we can to address the needs of the survivors and help them rise from this devastation brought by the typhoon. We hope we can encourage more people and companies to continue helping because the survivors really need our help,” said Villar. http://manilastandardtoday.com/2014/02/17/villar-donates-roofs/
SC tames cybercrime law February 16, 2014 9:33 pm by JOMAR CANLAS SENIOR REPORTER THE Supreme Court is poised to declare as illegal several provisions of Republic Act (RA) 10175 or the Cybercrime Prevention Act, whose constitutionality was challenged by several groups after President Benigno Aquino 3rd signed the measure into law in 2012. A well-placed source said the Court’s justices had started voting on the contentious provisions but they were not able to finish because each of them needs to vote for each challenged provision. The magistrates are expected to finish voting on Tuesday. The source said the justices have agreed in principle to clip the powers of the Department of Justice (DOJ), which under the law was granted the authority to shut down websites. The source said an overwhelming majority, if not all, of the justices may declare Section 19 of the Cybercrime law unconstitutional. Section 19 or the takedown clause allows the DOJ to close websites it considers to contain harmful content based merely on prima facie evidence and even without a court order. During the oral arguments, Solicitor General Francis Jardeleza had admitted that the clause is unconstitutional. “The justices had voted and will continue to vote on each and every provision of the Cybercrime law which was covered by the petitions,” the source said. He said the magistrates are bent on protecting children from pornography. They also want to protect journalists against online libel since the penalty and the provisions of Libel in the Revised Penal Code (Article 353,354, 355, 361 and 362) are not applicable with the online libel provision in the Cybercrime law. The Supreme Court grounded the law with a 120-day temporary restraining order (TRO) in October 2012. On February 5, 2013, the Court extended the TRO indefinitely. At least 15 petitions have been filed at the Court against the Cybercrime law. The petitioners include the National Press Club, National Union of Journalists of the Philippines; UP law Prof. Harry Roque Jr.; lawyer Jose Jesus Disini of the Internet and society program of UP College of Law; a group of lawyers led by Paul Cornelius Castillo, businessman Louis Biraogo; a group of journalists belonging to Alab ng Mamahayag; Senator Teofisto “TG” Guingona; a group of
lawmakers, members of the academe and students led by Rep. Raymond Palatino of Kabataan party-list; militant groups led by Bagong Alyansang Makabayan; Ateneo Human Rights Center and Reps. Neri Colminares and Teddy Casiño of Bayan Muna. The petitioners are focusing on Sec. 4(c)(4), which criminalizes libel on cyberspace; Sec. 5(a), which lists “aiding or abetting in the commission of Cybercrime” as an additional offense; Sec. 6, which raises by one degree higher the penalties provided for by the Revised Penal Code for all crimes committed through and with the use of information and communications; Sec. 7, which provides that apart from prosecution under the law, any person charged for the alleged offense covered will not be spared from violations of the Revised Penal Code and other special laws; Sec. 12, which authorizes law enforcement authorities to collect or record, by technical or electronic means, traffic data in real-time; Sec. 14, which authorizes law enforcement authorities, armed with a court warrant, to require “any person or service provider to disclose or submit subscriber’s information, traffic data or relevant data in his/its possession or control within 72 hours from receipt of the order in relation to a valid complaint officially docketed and assigned for investigation;” Sec. 15, which authorizes law enforcement authorities to search, seize and examine computer data; Sec. 19, which authorizes the DOJ to block access to computer data when such data “is prima facie found to be in violation of the provisions of this Act;” Sec. 20, which states that those who fail to comply with provisions of the law’s Chapter IV (Enforcement and Implementation), specifically orders from law enforcement agencies, shall face a maximum imprisonment of 6 years or a fine of P100,000 or both, for each noncompliance; Sec. 24, which creates an inter-agency body under the Office of the President (OP) to be known as the Cybercrime Investigation and Coordinating Center (CICC) for “policy coordination” and “formulation and enforcement of the national cybersecurity plan;” Sec. 26(a), which details the powers and functions of the CICC; Sec. 28, which provides for the crafting of the law’s Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) by the Departments of Science and Technology, Justice and Interior and Local Government. http://manilatimes.net/sc-tames-cybercrime-law/76176/
PALACE ADMITS ‘YOLANDA’ SHORTCOMINGS February 16, 2014 9:32 pm by JOEL M. SY EGCO AND RITCHIE A. HORARIO SENIOR REPORTER AND REPORTER MALACAÑANG on Sunday admitted that the government has been unable to adequately address the needs of the millions of people affected by Super Typhoon Yolanda. But Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said government is determined to push ahead with the rehabilitation of all 171 municipalities and cities hit by the calamity. “We realize that despite its best efforts, government is unable to adequately respond to all the needs of all the affected families and individuals. We continue to welcome suggestions on how we can improve our response and assistance,” Coloma said in a statement. He vowed that families living in bunkhouses and temporary shelters will be provided permanent housing in new settlements with facilities for livelihood activities. “New school buildings, municipal halls, public markets, and town centers will be constructed,” he said. The United Nations confirmed on Sunday that 100 days after the super typhoon hit the Central Philippines, “needs remain enormous.” It called on government and aid agencies not to be complacent and to find ways to house those still without roofs over their heads. “The need for durable shelter for millions of people whose homes were damaged or destroyed is critical,” said UN resident humanitarian coordinator Luiza Carvalho. She said 45 percent of the $788 million appeal the UN had launched had already been received, and it had benefited hundreds of thousands. Some half a million families had already received tents and tarpaulins for temporary shelters, while emergency jobs programs helped put money in survivors’ pockets and revive local economies. Carvalho said millions of jobs were destroyed or impaired after Yolanda tore down or damaged 33 million coconut trees, flooded fields with salt water, and swept away or wrecked 30,000 fishing vessels.
According to Coloma, President Benigno Aquino 3rd has directed members of the Cabinet to prepare a detailed roadmap for effective response to disasters before the onset of the rainy season in June. “This will include adoption of new emergency alert protocols for storm surge, floods, and landslides; strict implementation of no build zones along coastlines; and higher standards for disaster resiliency of buildings and infrastructure,” he said. Learning from Yolanda’s lessons, the government will give priority to setting up an all-weather communications system including satellite phones and mobile communications kits to ensure uninterrupted connectivity despite power service interruption. “As we stated in the Asean-Japan Commemorative Summit last December 2013, the Philippines and other disaster prone countries must break the cycle of prediction, devastation, and rehabilitation by adopting the principle of build back better and being more productive. The President has also said that, with the worsening effects of climate change, we must make even greater measures to adopt including reinforcing our supply of power,” Coloma said. He also promised to act on reports of abuse or anomalies in the provision of relief services to victims of calamities. Coloma called on all Filipinos to continue working with government and all donor and aid agencies in extending a helping hand to the victims. “In order to build back better, reconstruction and rehabilitation must be needs-based and grounded on concrete realities at the grassroots level. For this reason, Secretary Panfilo Lacson has prioritized local government units that have done their homework in preparing a post-disaster needs assessment analysis and corresponding rehabilitation plan,” Coloma said. Security is another serious concern for millions of displaced people, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Joel Andersson, head of Yolanda Operations for UNHCR in Tacloban City, said among the lingering issues are a heightened risk of human trafficking, sexual and gender-based violence and child exploitation. Andersson said particularly vulnerable are the elderly, persons with disabilities and indigenous groups who lost their homes and livelihood. He said the UNHCR has been heavily involved in training local authorities, aid workers, the military and the police on the UN Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement, child protection and sexual and gender-based violence together with the other members of the Protection Cluster. “Through this, we have a dialogue with national protection actors on how to bring a human rights perspective into the emergency response and search for solutions for the most vulnerable populations,” he said in a statement.
The UNHCR, under the Typhoon Yolanda Protection Cluster led by the Department of Social Welfare and Development, has supported the strengthening of the Women and Children’s Protection Desks of the Philippine National Police to improve security for women and children survivors. It supported the deployment of dozens of female police officers from other regions to typhoonstricken areas, installation of teams in disaster areas to monitor all forms of movement of those displaced by the typhoon, including relocation and resettlement, and ensure that these are voluntary, safe, free, informed and dignified. “We will continue to work with the government to help deliver durable solutions to the millions displaced and affected by the super typhoon, with a protection focus,” Andersson said. WITH AFP http://manilatimes.net/palace-admits-yolanda-shortcomings/76174/
Trillanes: Ruby not telling everything, can’t be govt witness February 16, 2014 9:30 pm by JEFFERSON ANTIPORDA REPORTER SEN. Antonio Trillanes 4th believes that Ruby Tuason does not deserve to be a state witness because she is withholding information that could prove damaging to Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile. Trillanes said Tuason may not be telling everything because she wants to save Enrile from being indicted for plunder. He also suspects that Tuason’s lawyer, Dennis Manalo, could be involved in the withholding of information because Manalo worked at the Siguion-Reyna, Montecillo and Ongsiako law firm. The law firm was founded by the husband of Enrile’s half-sister Armida Siguion-Reyna. Trillanes cited inconsistencies in Tuason’s statements, such as her admission that she asked for financial assistance from Sen. Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada while she was in the United States. However, she told the Senate blue ribbon committee she is willing to return the P40 million in commissions she received from the pork barrel scam. Trillanes said although the testimony of Tuason regarding her transactions with Senator Estrada was “telling,” it does not qualify her as a state witness because the information she provided on Enrile is insufficient. “She is claiming that she is doing this for the sake of the country and if that is the case she should prove it by telling everything,” Trillanes said in a radio interview aired over DZBB. He said the Department of Justice (DOJ) should pursue the charges against Tuason. Trillanes noted that the complaints filed against several lawmakers and personalities at the Office of the Ombudsman can stand even without Tuason’s testimony. He said Tuason is not an important witness because most of the information she provided was based on the affidavit of Benhur Luy. Tuason had admitted delivering cash commissions to Estrada. But she said she did not personally transact business with Enrile, and that it was the senator’s former chief-of-staff, Gigi Reyes, who received the pork commissions.
Tuason told the Senate hearing that she could not say for sure if Enrile was aware of the transactions between her and Reyes because while Enrile sometimes joined them in their meeting, they did not talk or mention anything about the pork barrel. Sen. Miriam Santiago had also accused Tuason of protecting Enrile. But she said the senator’s presence at the meetings of Tuason and Reyes is enough to prove conspiracy. “The mere presence of Senator Enrile, even if he did not say anything, establishes that he was a conspirator in the scam,” Santiago said. http://manilatimes.net/trillanes-ruby-not-telling-everything-cant-be-govtwitness/76170/
EDSA rites to be held in Palace February 16, 2014 9:27 pm by CATHERINE VALENTE This year’s commemoration of the 1986 People Power Revolution will no longer be held at the Epifanio de los Santos Avenue (EDSA) but in Malacañang. Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said the EDSA People Power Commission headed by Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. decided to hold the commemoration of the 28th anniversary of the peaceful revolt at the Palace grounds to avoid inconvenience to motorists and commuters. He said the ceremonies will include the traditional “salubungan” to mimic the meeting of the people and soldiers in the 1986 revolt that ousted then President Ferdinand Marcos. Other activities include a “pulong-bayan [town hall meeting] between President Benigno Aquino 3rd and representatives of various sectors. The EDSA Revolution—which occurred from February 22 to 25, 1986—is annually commemorated on February 25. According to Coloma, this year’s anniversary will have the theme “Kapit-bisig para sa Pagbangon [Linking arms together toward recovery]. He said that the administration is shifting the focus of EDSA 1 celebrations from those who took part in the 1986 revolt to modern-day Filipinos working together to fight poverty. “Unti-unti nating inilalayo ang sentro ng selebrasyon sa kabayanihan ng mga nanindigan sa EDSA noong 1986 tungo sa pagbabayanihan ng mga Pilipino sa kasalukuyang panahon upang maibsan ang paghihirap na dulot ng maraming dekada ng korapsyon at pagsasamantala ng mga nasa kapangyarihan [We are slowly moving the celebration away from the heroism of those who stood for freedom on EDSA in 1986 toward the efforts of Filipinos to help each other to alleviate the suffering caused by many decades of corruption and abuse by those in power],” Coloma said. “Nais nating pagtuunan ng pansin ang pagpapa-angat sa antas ng kabuhayan ng mga Pilipino na patuloy na nakararanas ng ‘di makatarungang kahirapan. Pinahahalagahan natin ang pagpupunyagi ng mga mamamayan sa pagpapabuti ng kanilang pamumuhay, pagtutulungan, at pagmamalasakit sa isa’t isa sa panahon ng pangangailangan [We want to focus our efforts on improving the lot of Filipinos who continue to suffer from poverty. We honor the efforts of our countrymen who work to improve their lives, help one another, and have concern for each one in times of need],” he added. http://manilatimes.net/edsa-rites-to-be-held-in-palace/76162/
Flawed rice importation policy blamed February 16, 2014 8:35 pm by JING VILLAMENTE AS the country continues to hunt down “illegal rice importers,” two former heads of the National Food Authority (NFA) warned that flawed government policies pose bigger threats to the rice industry. In a statement, former NFA chief Anthony Abad said smuggling is just a symptom of a flawed system of rice regulation. Similarly, former NFA chief Lito Banayo warned that government’s continued monopoly on rice importation could cause NFA’s debt to balloon to as much as P190 billion. “Rice smuggling occurs because there is an unmet demand of a hungry population. Smuggling and the illicit importation of rice simply reflect a deficit in supply,” said Abad, a lawyer and international trade expert. In the ongoing Senate hearings, the so-called illegal importations were blamed on the absence of a definitive policy on the World Trade Organization (WTO)-granted “special privilege” or quantitative restrictions (QR) on the importation of rice that had expired in June 2012. The Department of Agriculture (DA) has maintained that despite its expiration, importation quotas on rice will remain in place until 2017, even as the Philippines has yet to succeed in negotiating an extension with fellow WTO member countries. But Abad believes otherwise: “When you have an agreement that is time-bound, the “special treatment clause” expires upon the deadline. The Philippines is the only country left that maintains a QR.” The DA and attached agency NFA have been criticized by some sectors for supposedly using QRs and the issuance of import permits to maintain a “monopoly” over rice trade. Abad, who was NFA administrator from 2000 to 2002, agreed that the “outdated QR system and government rice monopoly, only lead to high prices, inefficiency, corruption, and smuggling.” Banayo in a television said he was astonished at how NFA has come to monopolize rice trade over the last year. “In the third year of the Aquino administration, 2013, I was surprised to read in the papers that it was only the NFA doing the importing, without participation from the private sector,” he said.
Supposedly, under the 2010 Food Staples Self-sufficiency Program (FSSP) or the rice selfsufficiency roadmap, importation should primarily be the role of the private sector. “The private sector should be the one to import. The NFA should, little by little, remove itself from rice importation and concentrate on local procurement, which we followed for two years,” said Banayo, NFA administrator during the first two years of the Aquino administration. He warned that the NFA’s continued monopoly over rice importation, through government-togovernment transactions, is a virtual “white elephant,” costing the country billions in public funds. “We are going to be deep in debt. I think, at the rate it’s going, mostly from government-togovernment imports, we will reach P190 billion by the time [Aquino’s] term ends,” said Banayo. Amid increasing prices, Banayo reminded the NFA to concentrate on two things: “one to make sure that there is available rice in the market, [and] two, to make it affordable.” http://manilatimes.net/flawed-rice-importation-policy-blamed/76127/
Farmers use fungi species to boost production February 16, 2014 8:31 pm by GABY B. KEITH BAGUIO CITY: A fungi species tested to suppress soil borne diseases is being reproduced for farmers who are engaged in vegetable production in the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR). The Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI) has been reproducing the fungi of the trichoderma species cultured through laboratory procedures using rice hull, according to Teresita Mangili, a BPI researcher. A study on the effective use of trichoderma species started in BPI in 2003 against nematodes, small worm-like parasitic organisms that infect potatoes. The use of the fungi species was first tested in organic farms in Buguias, Benguet province. The species was also tried in strawberries and was found to be effective in preventing the spread of soil-borne diseases. Throughout the years, farmers benefited from the use of the trichoderma species, using the fungi species to combat plant diseases instead of commercial pesticides. Research on the effective use of the said species is important because it is a bio-control material isolated in the soil, which does not pose any threat to humans, Mangili said. Trichoderma species is also found to prevent club root, a disease which causes massive swelling, distortion and severely retarded growth common in crucifers such as cabbages. There is no pesticide yet manufactured to counter the plant disease. It is also used as soil enhancer that boosts the microbial activity in the soil and increases nutrient plant intake. According to Mangali, the BPI is mass-producing the species for the use of farmers mostly from Sagada, Mountain Province. Farmers in Buguias, Atok and Kabayan in Benguet province and Bauko in Mountain Province are already using the trichoderma species in vegetable production. Jeffrey Sotero, Tublay Municipal Agriculture Officer, who started using the fungi last year, observed that the fungi species also induced the decomposition of compost mixture.
While it enriches soil, it also enhances plant growth, which serves as a supplement to plant needs, Sotero noted. He applied it in his farm, which produces lettuce, beans, garden pea, and cucumber. BPI assisted the Benguet local government for the establishment of a mini-laboratory for the mass production of the trichoderma species. Two laboratories are also expected to be established in Buguias and Bauko, Mangili said. http://manilatimes.net/farmers-use-fungi-species-to-boost-production/76115/
MMDA PUSHES FOR 4‐DAY, FLEXI‐TIME FOR METRO WORKERS February 16, 2014 8:28 pm by RITCHIE A. HORARIO TO ease the anticipated monstrous traffic situation in the metropolis, the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) is now pushing for four-day work week and flexible time for workers. MMDA Traffic Engineering Center Director Neomie Recio said the idea propped up during the recent two-day traffic summit aimed at finding possible ways to ease the traffic gridlock that may be caused by the overlapping construction of 15 major road projects. She explained that under the proposal, workers in Metro Manila will only report for work for four days but their time will be extended. http://manilatimes.net/mmda-pushes-for-4-day-flexi-time-for-metro-workers/76105/
More sugar allocated for domestic market February 16, 2014 7:44 pm by JAMES KONSTANTIN GALVEZ The Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) has lowered the sugar allocation for the export market, because of increasing demand in the local market amid decreasing sugar production. In Sugar Order 1A, SRA Administrator Ma. Regina Bautista-Martin ordered the reallocation of “D sugar” or world market sugar for “B sugar” or domestic market sugar, in order to meet the increasing demand for the sweetener in the local market. “While the current crop year’s production is on the downtrend, the records show that our local demand or consumption for sugar is increasing,” Martin said. The SRA chief added that it is necessary for the agency to reallocate world market sugar to the local market, stressing that projected sugar buffer stock may hit a critical level by the end of the crop year 2013 to 2014. “The SRA conducted periodic assessments wherein it was determined that due to the adverse effect of the series of severe climatic disturbances befalling the country, which directly impacted sugar production,” Martin said. “Our national sugar production will be reduced to more or less 2.356 million metric tons [MT] for the current crop year,” she added. To recall, the SRA said that it expected sugar production for crop year 2013 to 2014 to reach 2.45 million MT, roughly the same level as the actual production of 2.45 million MT in the previous crop year. Of the total projected volume, Martin said that the agency has allocated 2 percent for “A sugar” or US sugar quota, 12 percent for “D sugar” or world market sugar, and 86 percent to “B sugar” or domestic market. http://manilatimes.net/more-sugar-allocated-for-domestic-market/76059/
Posted on February 16, 2014 11:32:09 PM By Claire-Ann M. C. Feliciano, Reporter
Meralco seeks approval to recover P11B MANILA ELECTRIC CO. (Meralco) wants to recover deferred generation costs amounting to P11.075 billion from consumers starting next month. Suppliers, the power distributor claimed, have begun demanding payment after the Supreme Court earlier this month clarified that a temporary restraining order on a P4.15/kilowatt‐hour (kWh) rate increase does not extend to a P4.5606/kWh generation charge adjustment supposed to have been billed in January. The utility, in a Feb. 14 petition that was published yesterday, asked the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) to approve the recovery in stages, starting with an additional P0.844/kWh to be levied during the March billing period. Meralco said this would cover P2.05 billion in incremental fuel costs incurred during the December supply month, when three power suppliers shifted to more expensive liquid fuel given a maintenance shutdown of the Malampaya natural gas facility. Starting April and for the next four months, meanwhile, Meralco wants to recover a remaining P9.03 billion in deferred generation costs via a P0.7433/kWh adjustment. Charges covered by the balance represent power purchased from the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market (WESM) amid planned and unplanned plant shutdowns and other regular billing adjustments. “It’s a six‐month recovery period to cushion the impact to the customers,” said William S. Pamintuan, Meralco first vice‐president and legal department head. Meralco, in its petition, said the Supreme Court’s clarification of the restraining order’s coverage led to “letters demanding payment of the deferred amounts for the December 2013 supply month... which have become due and demandable”. It said a notice from the corporate secretary of Philippine Electricity Market Corp., the WESM operator, also pointed out that Meralco’s prudential security would be drawn today given the firm’s failure to pay its December supply bills “and surprisingly, including the earlier November 2013 supply month [covered by the restraining order]”.
“It bears emphasis that Meralco can only pay its power suppliers... by recovering said costs from its customers,” the utility said in the petition. It added that the P2.05 billion sought to be recovered via the P0.844/kWh increase should not be affected by pending petitions with the ERC and the Supreme Court case, while the remaining P9.03 billion should be “without prejudice to the resolution of the said cases”. “Additionally, these proposals are without prejudice to any application that may be subsequently filed for the recovery of any appropriate carrying charges,” Meralco said. The Supreme Court is currently hearing a complaint filed by party‐list legislators and consumer groups against the P4.15/kWh power rate hike, supposed to have been collected in tranches staring last December. The increase, consisting of a P3.44/kWh generation charge, P0.04/kWh transmission charge, P0.33/kWh for taxes and P0.34/kWh for other charges, has been blamed on the Malampaya maintenance work and planned/unplanned plant shutdowns. With the Supreme Court having halted the rate hike’s implementation last December, Meralco initially said it would also be shelving a P4.56/kWh generation charge increase for January. Last Feb. 4, however, the Supreme Court said its 60‐day restraining order only covered the P4.15/kWh hike. That stay order expires this Friday. The Supreme Court concluded oral arguments on the case last Feb. 11. All parties involved have been directed to submit their final position papers within 15 days. Meralco’s controlling stakeholder, Beacon Electric Asset Holdings, Inc., is partly owned by Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. (PLDT). Hastings Holdings, Inc., a unit of PLDT Beneficial Trust Fund subsidiary MediaQuest Holdings, Inc., has a majority stake in BusinessWorld. http://www.bworldonline.com/content.php?section=TopStory&title=Meralco-seeksapproval-to-recover-P11B&id=83516
Posted on February 16, 2014 11:31:11 PM
Integration just the start for ASEAN THE ASSOCIATION of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) must continue to work on harmonization and convergence after it pushes through with market integration next year, a Cabinet official said. Finance Secretary Cesar V. Purisima, in a speech delivered at the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) in Singapore earlier this month, cited the Philippines’ and ASEAN’s prospects as the region moves closer to becoming an economic community. “The ASEAN is in the right place of the world for the next 30 to 50 years,” he said. “If looked at as a single country, ASEAN will be among the top ten economies in terms of population, and probably among the youngest with an average age of twenty‐seven years old ... the young and the middle class are the drivers of growth,” he added. “However, we cannot capitalize on these opportunities if we do not do the right things ... We have to accept that although we can reap countless benefits from integration in the future, we have to strive much harder to achieve them. We have to ensure first that our institutions, our standards, and our people grow to be harmonized.” Improving the regional business climate and connectivity through increased infrastructure investment, said Mr. Purisima, will help in facilitating trade among ASEAN countries. “We can ease doing business in ASEAN countries by simplifying rules, investing in infrastructure and increasing connectivity... Obviously, connectivity is not just about physical connectivity. It is also about harmonizing standards and the regulatory environment,” he said. “When you look at where ASEAN is now in terms of intra‐ASEAN trade, we are only at about 25% of total trade... We need to trade more within ASEAN.” Encouraging trade involves the cooperation of the private sector as well, he said. “Businesses will boom if ASEAN integrates successfully but this is not possible without their participation... That is the challenge for the private sector, to become a catalyst for integration itself. It will be a more daunting challenge for smaller sections of the private sector but this is where the government can step in to facilitate the sharing of information,” Mr. Purisima noted.
Opening up labor markets will likewise be “crucial,” he said, especially in terms of increasing worker mobility and their capacities. To facilitate trade and investment in the region, integration of financial and capital markets through the harmonization of regulatory standards is crucial, the Finance chief added. An integrated regional capital market will also give ASEAN countries increased liquidity, which could be used to fund and bridge infrastructure and development gaps. “ASEAN has potential and 2015 is already less than a year away. However, I look at 2015 not as the time of integration but as a time of harmonization and convergence... The more conscious we are of one another’s challenges, the more likely we will succeed at integration, and the more likely we will reap the rewards of an integrated market,” Mr. Purisima said. For the Philippines, he said there were many “upsides” even as the country was continuing to face challenges such as the effects of climate change, poverty and an infrastructure lack. The Finance chief touted the administration’s good governance agenda, which he said had allowed the country to gain confidence. “Even despite the difficult global economic environment, we have continued to reap benefits of growth because of our main drivers, namely consumption, as spurred by our people, and infrastructure, spurred by investment,” Mr. Purisima said. Areas that could provide the economy with an extra lift, he said, include mining, tourism, and agriculture ‐‐ sectors that are among the government’s investment priorities. “We are hopeful that once we turn these upsides into reality, we will be able to sustain growth rates of 7%‐8%. If we are to deal with poverty, we have to grow at those levels,” Mr. Purisima said. ‐‐ Bettina Faye V. Roc http://www.bworldonline.com/content.php?section=TopStory&title=Integration-just-thestart-for-ASEAN&id=83514
Posted on February 16, 2014 10:02:13 PM
Schools report revenue growth TWO LISTED SCHOOLS ‐‐ Far Eastern University, Inc. (FEU) and STI Education System Holdings, Inc. ‐‐ saw growth in the nine months ending December of their April‐March fiscal year on the back of higher revenues, the establishments reported separately through the bourse on Friday last week. STUDENTS of Far Eastern University walk in front of the school’s façade in Manila in this photo taken on March 6, 2006. ‐‐ BW file photo FEU Net income of FEU ‐‐ sourced mainly from tuition and other fees ‐‐ climbed 3.5% to P674.2 million in the nine months to December last year from P651.3 million in the same period in 2012. Educational revenues increased 7% to P1.6 billion from P1.5 billion, while operating expenses rose 4% to P1.06 billion from P1.02 billion. Income from other sources ‐‐ including finance income, management fees, rent, and miscellaneous fees ‐‐ rose 7.5% to P227 million from P211 million. In the October‐December period alone, however, FEU’s net income was virtually flat at P276.7 million, up just 0.39% from P275.6 million in the comparable 2012 period. Educational revenues rose 2.43% to P636.2 million from P621.1 million, while operating expenses stayed at P380.6 million. STI Revenues of STI, meanwhile, grew in the nine months ending December of its fiscal year on the back of higher number of enrollees, the listed firm said in statement on Friday. “STI Holdings posted… P1.36 billion in gross revenues in the nine months of its fiscal year ending December 2013, representing a 13% increase compared to figures posted during the same period in 2012,” the statement read. Its quarterly report submitted in February last year showed that the company had P1.2 billion revenues in the nine months ending December 2012. STI attributed revenue growth to the increase in the number of students enrolling in schools operated by STI Education Services Group (STI��ESG) and its subsidiaries. “The 13% increase in gross revenues resulted mainly from increase in the number of students of STI ESG and its subsidiaries from 68,363 last year to 71,195 this year,” the company said.
STI explained that it had more student‐enrollees in its four‐year courses than two‐year programs during the period. “Ratio in 2013 was 76% four‐year programs and 24% two‐year programs, as compared to 70% and 30% respectively in 2012,” the company said. As of end‐March last year, STI ESG had a total of 85 STI‐branded colleges and education centers. The company also operates iACADEMY and nursing school Delos Santos STI College. STI said that iACADEMY contributed P91 million in revenues, while its recently acquired West Negros University in Bacolod City accounted for P34.6‐million revenues since its takeover in October last year. ‐‐ Daryll Edisonn D. Saclag and Claire‐Ann Marie C. Feliciano http://www.bworldonline.com/content.php?section=Corporate&title=Schools-reportrevenue-growth&id=83494
Posted on February 16, 2014 10:28:13 PM
Survivors need more aid: UN THE UNITED Nations (UN) warned on Saturday that millions of survivors of the Philippines’ deadliest typhoon were still without adequate shelter 100 days after the disaster. “The authorities, UN agencies and nongovernmental organizations, and the Filipino people should be commended for the pace of progress.... But we cannot afford to be complacent,” UN resident and humanitarian coordinator for the Philippines Luiza Carvalho said. “The need for durable shelter for millions of people whose homes were damaged or destroyed is critical,” she added in a statement. Typhoon Yolanda (international name: Haiyan) tore across the central islands on Nov. 8 last year, killing 6,200 people and leaving nearly 2,000 others missing. It also destroyed or severely damaged 1.1 million houses, leaving more than four million people homeless. Ms. Carvalho said millions of jobs were also destroyed or impaired after Yolanda tore down or damaged 33 million coconut trees, flooded fields with saltwater, and swept away or wrecked 30,000 fishing vessels. Apart from addressing food and health needs, the international aid effort provided tents and tarpaulin shelters to half‐a‐million families, while emergency employment programs pumped money into the devastated local economies. Many of the devastated areas rely on subsistence fishing and farming and are on the path of most of the 20 or so typhoons and storms that strike the Asian country each year. “As the Philippines marks 100 days since the devastating super‐typhoon struck, our thoughts are very much with the survivors who mourn the loss of so many friends and loved ones,” Ms. Carvalho said. “We are supporting the authorities to help survivors find closure and ensure that the affected
regions build back better and safer so that the next massive storm does not bring the terrible levels of devastation that we saw with Yolanda,” she added. She said the UN has raised more than $300 million for the humanitarian effort this year that was expected to cost $788 million. Priority would go to providing durable shelters and livelihoods, she added. Abigail F. Valte, a spokeswoman for President Benigno S. C. Aquino III, acknowledged Saturday that disaster aid “can never be fast enough” for the areas devastated by Yolanda. “We continue to assure everybody that the national government agencies that are involved will continue to push for what needs to be done in the areas that have been hit,” she said in an interview on government radio. In a statement last week, the Budget department said it released a total of P20.79 billion to several implementing agencies last December to cover the funding requirements for various initiatives under the government’s reconstruction plan for Yolanda‐affected areas. “True to the President’s word, the administration has been working continuously to expedite the rehabilitation and recovery process for all communities destroyed by Yolanda,” Budget Secretary Florencio B. Abad said. “Relief operations ‐‐ which commenced as soon as logistical bottlenecks had been cleared ‐‐ have run full‐throttle to ensure the safety and full recovery of Yolanda’s survivors,” he added. In Tacloban City, the Office of Civil Defense (OCD) has deployed a team to validate the names of the casualties due to typhoon Yolanda. Angelo C. Bacho, OCD regional assistant operations officer, said the team has been visiting the communities leveled by the typhoon and storm surges to ensure no fatality is reported twice or kept from authorities. “So far, we could not say if the number will increase or decrease since we have to revisit all municipalities with reported casualties. We are just 95% done with our assessment of casualties in these three areas,” he told reporters last week. Based on the initial validated report of OCD, San Jose district in Tacloban had 969 fatalities, about 200 more than those reported earlier to the local disaster and risk reduction management council.
The official death toll in Tacloban was 2,606, about 1% of the city’s population of 220,000. The OCD has validated 1,565 names. In the neighboring town of Palo, Mr. Bacho said some names were listed twice. “For Palo town alone, we found about 100 names counted as casualty twice,” he added. Palo had an initial death toll of 1,089, which has been reduced to 982 as of last month. The OCD is still analyzing data collected in Tanauan, which was also devastated by the typhoon. Mr. Bacho said they have to validate casualty reports as reference for the distribution of financial aid to typhoon victims. The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, through the OCD, provides P10,000 cash assistance to families with a casualty. Those with injured members get half the amount. “We also need the validated list as reference for insurance companies and other firms who want to confirm if their clients died during the storm,” he said. As of last week, there were 69 applications for financial aid processed by OCD for 101 casualties in Tacloban City, Palo, Julita and Pastrana in Leyte; and Basey, Samar. To claim the assistance, a family member has to present a death certificate, proof of filial relationship, and certification from the barangay captain. ‐‐ AFP with Sarwell Q. Meniano in Tacloban City http://www.bworldonline.com/content.php?section=Nation&title=Survivors-need-moreaid:-UN&id=83510
Posted on February 16, 2014 10:27:48 PM
Villar tops list of solons with the most expenses FORMER SENATOR Manuel B. Villar and Senators Juan Ponce Enrile and Jose “Jinggoy” E. Estrada received the most funds for salaries and expenses in 2012, based on data published yesterday. The itemized list of amounts paid and expenses incurred by the member of both houses of the Congress showed that Mr. Villar received the highest funds for salaries and expenses during the period of Jan. 1 to Dec. 31, 2012. Mr. Villar received a grand total of P1.2 billion for salary and expenses combined. Mr. Enrile followed at P123.4 million, and Mr. Estrada, who received P67.6 million. Senator Vicente C. Sotto III followed Mr. Estrada at P61.3 million, while Senator Antonio F. Trillanes IV received P61.2 million in funds and salaries in 2012, the data verified by Supervising Auditor Mario G. Lipana. Senators Joker P. Arroyo, Sergio R. Osmeña III and Miriam Defensor‐Santiago received the least amount of funds for salaries and expenses at P34.9 million, P41.5 million and P42.6 million, respectively. In the House of Representatives, Mandaluyong Rep. Neptali M. Gonzales II received that most in funds and salaries in 2012 at P15.5 million. House Speaker and Quezon City Rep. Feliciano R. Belmonte, Jr. (4th district) received the second highest amount of funds in salaries and wages at P14.4 million. Zamboanga City Rep. Enrico Basilio A. Fabian (2nd district) received P11.5 million in 2012 making him the third in the list. Party‐list Rep. Zenaida de Castro of (Utak) received the least amount of funds in salaries and expenses in 2012 at P2.1 million. She was followed by Dinagat Island Rep. Reuben Ecleo, Jr. with P5 million, and Party‐list Rep. Emmeline Yan Aglipay (DIWA) who received P8.2 million for funds for salaries and expenses in 2012. These figures are based on the records and verified correct by Supervising Auditor Yolanda N. Umali. ‐‐ Maria Laura V. Angeles
Posted on February 16, 2014 10:27:23 PM
Philippines likely to be removed from piracy watch list this year THE INTELLECTUAL Property Office of the Philippines (IPOPHL) is confident that the country will finally be removed from a piracy watch list this year, with an official claiming that issues raised by lobby groups have already been addressed. “The Philippines looks forward to seeing the country finally removed from the 2014 Special 301 Ordinary Watch List as it pursues stronger trade cooperation with the United States,” IPOPHL Director‐General Ricardo R. Blancaflor said in comments submitted to the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) for the 2014 Special 301 Report. “We trust that the few issues, most of which we believe are now fully addressed, will not diminish the good standing that the Philippines has earned as a result of its intensified initiatives to further develop and protect IP rights in the country,” he added. The report ‐‐ set to be released in April ‐‐ identifies countries that deny adequate and effective IP rights protection. The report, which is published annually since 1989, is considered a key expression of the trade policy of the US in IP matters. The US may impose unilateral trade sanctions or eliminate tariff preferences such as the Generalized System of Preferences on countries that fail to improve their IP climate. The Philippines has been in the watch list since 2007. Three lobby groups ‐‐ International Anti‐Counterfeiting Coalition, Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), and International Intellectual Property Alliance ‐‐ have said the Philippines should be kept in the list this year as “significant concerns” remain. Mr. Blancaflor, however, cited IPOPHL’s enforcement powers ‐‐ both in physical markets and online ‐‐ brought about by the Amended IP Code signed into law last year. He added that IPOPHL continues to provide capacity building for judges, justices and court
attorneys in dealing with IP cases and also encourages government departments and agencies to use legitimate and licensed computer software. In addition, Mr. Blancaflor said IPOPHL, together with the Food and Drug Administration and Bureau of Customs, is continuously monitoring importation of these unregistered drugs ‐‐ an issue raised by PhRMA. “[P]arallel importation of counterpart generic drugs of another manufacturer that infringes on patent rights is prohibited,” he said. The USTR earlier kept the Philippines out of its notorious markets list. ‐‐ Daryll Edisonn D. Saclag http://www.bworldonline.com/content.php?section=Nation&title=Philippines-likely-to-beremoved-from-piracy-watch-list-this-year&id=83508
Posted on February 16, 2014 10:23:15 PM
DENR shows programs to foreign agencies THE DEPARTMENT of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) presented ongoing and new projects to foreign partners and funding agencies last Friday, for possible support. Fishermen let down their nets in Manila Bay, in this 2012 photo. The bay’s coastal clean‐up is one of the DENR’s programs this year. ‐‐ BW File Photo “We’re presenting projects that need assistance, but at the end of the day, we are here to put out projects that we know will address the deficiencies and gaps that we need to address, and that is where our foreign partners and donors could greatly help us,” Manuel D. Gerochi, DENR Undersecretary for policy, planning and foreign‐assisted programs, said in his closing remarks. According to Mr. Gerochi, the DENR’s major plans and programs for 2014 are: • the National Greening Program; • the National Biodiversity Action Plan; • the National Geohazards Program; • the Land Administration Management Plan; • Coastal Resource Management; • the Air, Water and Solid Waste Management Program; and • Manila Bay Coastal Clean‐Up projects. The ongoing National Greening Program, in particular, is to plant some 1.5 billion trees covering about 1.5 million hectares from 2011 to 2016. The National Biodiversity Action Plan, meanwhile, entails habitat and vulnerability assessments, coral reef rehabilitation and protection, social mobilization and development, and sustainable livelihood interventions, from 2011 to 2020.
The National Geohazards Program is to identify areas susceptible or vulnerable to geologic hazards, such as flooding and landslides, and then provide vital information to various stakeholders in order to lessen or mitigate the impacts of these events. The Land Administration Management Plan, meanwhile, involves a cadastral survey of all the country’s cities and municipalities for systematic adjudication of land, Internal Revenue Allotment, and other purposes. The DENR aims to complete the survey by 2015. Other major targets, according to Mr. Gerochi, include: • banning logging in all natural forests nationwide, • improving the management of protected areas, • improving air quality, especially in Metro Manila, according to international standards by 2015, • improving the water quality of bodies such as rivers and esteros, • promoting good governance and combating corruption within the DENR, and • completing the identification and demarcation��of No Mining Zones, including tourism development areas, by this year. For his part, Edwin G. Domingo, overall director of the DENR Foreign‐Assisted and Special Projects, said there are 41 on‐going foreign assisted projects (FAPs) as of December 2013, with total project cost of $707.69 million. Mr. Domingo also said that there are 15 pipeline FAPs, as of the same month. “Ten projects or 67% are environment‐related projects; two projects or 13% are biodiversity‐ related; and one project each are forest, land, and coastal/marine‐related projects which is 7% each,” he said. Mr. Domingo noted that the biggest DENR funding partner is the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), with four projects; followed by the World Bank (WB) and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), with 3 projects each; the UN Development Program (UNDP), with two projects; and the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the Korean International Cooperation Agency (KOICA), and the Netherlands Facility for Infrastructure Development (ORIO) Program, with one project each.
Foreign partners and multilateral funding agencies at the forum welcomed the DENR’s presentation and expressed their willingness to continue supporting the department’s projects. ADB Natural Resources Specialist Su Chin Teoh said the bank looks forward to continuing its partnership with the DENR. JICA Program Officer John Raymar Piscos said: “We can assure you of our continued support and assistance in the environmental sector because ... environmental management and protection remains one of JICA’s main thrusts.” Mr. Piscos noted that, aside from environmental cooperation with the DENR, JICA is also keen on introducing Japanese technology on recycling waste. Berthold Schirm, principal adviser of Deutsche Geselleschaft fur Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), said: “This year is 40 years of German government and Philippine government cooperation.... I’m very impressed, actually, with the portfolio that I saw, and we will continue supporting the Philippine government, specially in the field of forestry, disaster risk management, adaptation to climate change, promotion of a green economy, and climate mitigation.” Food and Agriculture Organization Assistant Representative Aristeo Portugal also welcomed the presentation of the DENR and noted: “Our major focus in the FAO is assisting the forestry sector in terms of the effects of typhoon Haiyan, wherein the forestry remains unfunded.” Gerardo Parco, WB environment operations officer in the Philippines, also expressed supportfor the DENR’s projects. “We are very happy to see very definitive plans. We renew our commitment to our land management agenda project with the DENR,” Mr. Parco said. For her part, Amelia Supetran, UNDP energy and environment team leader in the Philippines, affirmed the UNDP’s commitment to work with the DENR but urged the latter agency to be more aggressive. “I am very glad that DENR is moving forward. But I urge DENR to go into more aggressive and imaginative on their projects and implementations,” Ms. Supetran said. ‐‐ I.C.C. Delavin http://www.bworldonline.com/content.php?section=Economy&title=DENR-showsprograms-to-foreign-agencies&id=83499
Posted on February 16, 2014 10:23:37 PM
GSP countries seek trade scheme’s renewal A GROUP of developing countries, including the Philippines, have called for the immediate renewal of the United States’ Generalized System of Preferences (GSP), saying their exports to the world’s largest economy have dropped since the program’s expiration last July. The 22‐member Alliance of GSP Countries, according to a statement by the Philippine Confederation of Exporters, Inc. (Philexport), is urging the US Congress to “restore the GSP trade benefits through legislation as soon as possible.” The GSP is a US trade assistance program that requires beneficiary countries to work toward implementing upgraded labor standards to qualify for duty‐free rates. The system covers 5,000 products and has 123 beneficiary countries and territories. Products eligible for GSP incentives include most manufactured items, chemicals, minerals and building stone, jewelry, carpets, and certain agricultural and fishery products. “During the ... months that GSP has not been in effect, imports from developing countries have dropped overall by 5.4%. Alliance countries’ small and medium‐sized businesses are losing hard‐won US market niches to non‐GSP low‐cost producers,” the Alliance said. The group consists of Algeria, Bangladesh, Brazil, Ecuador, Egypt, Fiji, Georgia, India, Indonesia, Macedonia, Moldova, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan, Paraguay, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Tunisia, Ukraine, Uruguay, and Yemen. A bill renewing the GSP is still pending at the committee level in the US Congress. The Philippines’ GSP use, Philexport said, grew only 5.1% last year and was outpaced by Uruguay, Algeria, Moldova, Ecuador, Macedonia, Pakistan, Brazil, Paraguay, Egypt, Thailand and Tunisia, which enjoyed an increase of 7.1% to 88.7% in exports. Value of Philippine exports to the US, Philexport noted, increased to $565.8 million from January to November 2013 from $538.4 million in the comparable 2012 period. The country’s top exports to the US with GSP privileges included electrical apparatus for
protecting electrical circuits, with sales recording a 244% surge from January to November last year. This was followed by non‐alcoholic beverages (excluding fruit or vegetable juices), with shipments increasing 100.5%, and unmounted spectacle lenses of materials other than glass, rising by 65.5%. Meanwhile, a non‐government organization has sought the Philippines’ exclusion in the GSP over alleged unfair labor policies. The case is still pending at the Office of the United States Trade Representative. ‐‐ Daryll Edisonn D. Saclag http://www.bworldonline.com/content.php?section=Economy&title=GSP‐countries‐seek‐ trade‐scheme%E2%80%99s‐renewal&id=83500
Solons dismiss Tuason canard Written by Angie M. Rosales Monday, 17 February 2014 00:00 DOJ, OMBUDSMAN TOLD TO REVIEW STATE WITNESS BID Senators suspect an unseen hand behind the obviously scripted testimony of potential state witness Ruby Chan Tuason during last Thursday’s Senate inquiry into the P10-billion pork barrel controversy but their opinions vary on who’s pulling the string on Tuason. Regardless of the opinions and assessments made by senators, including the lead investigator in the Senate’s probe into the P10-billion pork barrel scam, on the testimony of socialite-turned whistle-blower Ruby Chan Tuason, however, it’s the Ombudsman who will have final say on whether she’s qualified to be a “state witness” on the case, Senate President Franklin Drilon said. The immediate declaration of Justice Secretary Leila de Lima of a slum dunk evidence brought by Tuason along with the allies of President Aquino in the Senate, including Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago, that Tuason was a perfect witness was considered by many as proof of Palace influence in her testimony to pin down three target opposition senators in the scam. Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV said yesterday that Tuason is trying to protect Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile and is a trojan horse of a witness to pin down Sen. Jinggoy Estrada. Enrile, Estrada and Sen. Ramon Revilla Jr. are similarly recommended for plunder in the government complaint filed with the Ombudsman over the pork barrel controversy. Estrada, however, told reporters that he is not inclined to believe that Enrile is orchestrating the Tuason testimony to leave him out on the cold in the scandal. “Manong Johnny’s not like that,” Estrada said. Estrada added that during the birthday celebration of Enrile on Valentine’s Day, Feb. 14, Enrile even advised him to stay strong amid the Palace-orchestrated efforts regarding the priority development assistance fund (PDAF) scam. Enrile told me that he has been through the same ordeals and that he already has been there where I am still going, that’s why I had to be strong, Estrada said. “There’s still a long way to go before Tuason can be dropped from the roster of those who stand as accused in the plunder complaint over supposed misused of lawmaker’s PDAF and accepted in the witness protection program (WPP) of the government, Drilon added. “In a basketball game, we can say that it is just the first quarter, there is a long way to go, several processes would have to be a lot of processes to be followed for Tuason to qualify as a state witness,” Drilon said on radio. He dismissed the labeling given by some personalities such as “slam dunk evidence” given by Justice Sec. Leila de Lima and “three-point shot,” “buzzer-beater,” and “winning shot” of blue ribbon chair Sen. Teofisto “TG” Guingona III. Trillanes, however, issued a stern warning to both the Department of Justice (DoJ) and the Office of the Ombudsman to re-think the idea of considering Tuason as a state witness for the case. Trillanes remained firm in his position that Tuason’s testimony is “half-baked” and the government will be at the losing end of the prosecution of those supposedly involved in the scam if they will depend on her testimony.
Appearing before Senate blue ribbon committee last Thursday, Tuason implicated Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile and Sen. Jinggoy Estrada in the illegal transactions of purported brains behind the scam, Janet Lim Napoles. While Tuason made startling revelations on Estrada, supposedly receiving “kickbacks” directly from her and none of its kind on Enrile, Trillanes said the government should not be lured to keeping a person into the WPP even if the testimony seems to be incomplete. “It does not follow that when you give 50 percent of what you know qualifies you to the WPP and you are immune from criminal liabilities. The government loses out that way. Fopr me her testimony was not complete and I will recommend to the DOJ and Ombudsman to think about their plan of making Tuason a state witness,” Trillanes said. The senator said noted the role of Tuason in the purported misuse of PDAF of some lawmakers and should be equally held liable. Trillanes is of the opinion that the case can stand in court even sans the testimony of Tuason and depend merely on the documentary evidence and testimonies of whistleblowers led by Benhur Luy. “The story was complete. We were only swept up by the theatrics on Tuason then we find out about the half truths. The build up on her was more than what she actually delivered. I’m not one of those who’s just out to join the bandwagon, I’m just out to assess the substance of the testimony,” he said. Asked on whether Tuason should be called upon anew by the Senate investigating panel, the senator said it’s a judgment call of the chairman, Guingona, although he himself is against the idea. “It’s up to him actually. Sen. Guingona has been presiding over this hearing pretty well, we leave it up to his judgment,” he said. “I consider that lost opportunity, Tuason may make it up by telling some more details but that should not be the way to do it. Those seeking to the state witnesses should have the conviction of telling the entire information they have,” he added. Nonetheless, Trillanes strongly recommended to both the DoJ and the Ombudsman to reevaluate the testimony of Tuason given what he noted as apparent loopholes. “I think by now they realized it themselves too and because of all the noise that was created after her testimony that would be assessed by the Ombudsman before she is considered as a state witness. They will set a higher standard,” he said, adding that the standard should be that on the testimony of Luy, who willingly divulged all needed information unlike in the case of Tuason. Drilon defended his colleagues’ differing assessments on Tuason’s testimony saying that each senator is entitled to their opinion and their respective position will be reflected in the committee report in the end. “They will have their own inputs so I don’t want to comment on that until I see the committee report. I would like to emphasize that this (Senate) investigation is not for criminal prosecution but in aid of legislation. It’s the Ombudsman who will decide on Ruby Tuason whether to become a state witness,” he said. Even the idea of Tuason undergoing a lie detector’s test was junked by Drilon saying that the procedure itself is not an admitted evidence in a criminal prosecution and can only provide the lead for the investigators in a criminal case. “Unfortunately the lie detector’s test should have first the consent of the person involved and secondly, it’s not admissible in a criminal proceedings. It can only be a lead for those conducting investigation if they think that the person testifying is lying. This is to enable them to seek
further evidence,” he said, adding that there’s no provision under law on WPP for the person to undergo first such procedure before he or she can be accepted into the program. “Under the law and as a lawyer and former secretary of justice, it’s only the Ombudsman that can decide on who should be accepted in the WPP. This is the situation of Tuason, she applied for WPP and the secretary of justice said that her acceptance in WPP is just provisional. Why? because of the evaluation being undertaken by the Ombudsman on Tuason’s qualifications as a state witness. Is there an absolute necessity for her testimony, those are the kind of questions needed to be asked,” Drilon said. Drilon refused to give his assessment on Tuason’s testimony as it will be included in a commitee report and it will be voted upon by members of the committee in the blue ribbon. “As president of the Senate I don’t want to give a view on the nature of the testimony. We are not prosecutors, we do not decide on whether or not the evidence is sufficient for prosecution. Ruby Tuason is a resource person in the blue ribbon committee and at the end of the day, it’s the committee that will give decision on that through a committee report,” he said. Whatever will be the decision of the panel, Drilon further underscored, will be merely “recommendatory” to appropriate bodies such as the Ombudsman. http://www.tribune.net.ph/headlines/solons‐dismiss‐tuason‐canard
UN cites slow ‘Yolanda’ rehab; Palace claims roadmap drafted Written by Paul Atienza Monday, 17 February 2014 00:00
The Aquino administration, besieged by observations of the slow and poor progress of rehabilitation in the typhoon “Yolanda”-devastated Visayas provinces, promised a “detailed roadmap” that would include a timetable for the reconstruction of calamity-hit areas. The United Nations (UN) added its voice among those stating that the government response is too slow as it noted that many victims of the killer typhoon still do not have a place to live in 100 days after the fateful day of the disaster. Press Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said the Aquino administration is firmly determined to carry out massive rehabilitation efforts in all 171 municipalities and cities affected by this unprecendented calamity. “President Aquino has directed members of the Cabinet to prepare a detailed roadmap for effective response to disasters before the onset of the rainy season in June,” Coloma said. Coloma added affected families now living in bunkhouses and temporary shelters will be provided permanent housing in new human settlements with facilities for livelihood activities. He said new school buildings, municipal halls, public markets and town centers will be constructed. “This will include adoption of new emergency alert protocols for storm surge, floods and landslides; strict implementation of no build zones along coastlines; and higher standards for disaster resiliency of buildings and infrastructure,” Coloma said. Coloma said also a priority will be the setting up of an all-weather communications system including satellite phones and mobile communications kits to ensure uninterrupted connectivity during calamities particularly in the event of power service interruption. “As we stated in the ASEAN-Japan Commemorative Summit last December 2013, the Philippines and other disaster prone countries must break the cycle of prediction, devastation, and rehabilitation by adopting the principle of build back better and being more productive,” Coloma said.
Aquino had earlier said that, with the worsening effects of climate change, “we must make even greater measures to adapt including reinforcing our supply of power”. “We take heed of the counsel given by Ms. Luiza Carvalho, UN Resident Humanitarian Coordinator, that while “the authorities, UN agencies, and non-government organizations, and the Filipino people should be commended for the pace of progress in relief and rehabilitation efforts, we cannot afford to be complacent,” Coloma said. In a statement, Luiza Carvalho, UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for the Philippines, said that millions of Filipinos still require urgent assistance to rebuild their lives and livelihood and ensure that the gains made thus far are not rolled back as devastated communities begin the difficult process of recovery. While Carvalho commended those who have already helped the typhoon victims, she said that they could not afford to be complacent. “The need for durable shelter for millions of people whose homes were damaged or destroyed is critical. Millions of livelihoods were similarly destroyed or impaired when the typhoon tore down or damaged 33 million coconut trees, flooded fields with salt water and took away or wrecked 30,000 fishing vessels,” Carvalho said. Carvalho said the Humanitarian Country Team (HCT) for the Philippines is now prioritizing programming for shelter and livelihoods, while continuing to assist the most vulnerable people with life-saving assistance and protection services. Carvalho said the support for the Philippine government’s early recovery efforts was foreseen in the HCT’s Strategic Response Plan (SRP), which covers the 12 months following the typhoon. Of the $788 million required for the SRP, 45 percent has been received, Carvalho said. ‘Yolanda’ affected 14 million people and destroyed or severely damaged more than a million homes in the Philippines. It also left at least 6,200 people dead and more than 1,700 missing. Coloma said in order to build back better, reconstruction and rehabilitation must be needs-based and grounded on concrete realities at the grassroots level. “For this reason, Secretary Panfilo Lacson has prioritized local government units that have done their homerowk in preparing a post-disaster needs assessment analysis and corresponding rehabilitation plan,” Coloma said. Coloma said Lacson is currently coordinating the efforts of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), and the National Housing Authority (NHA) in preparing relocation and rebuilding sites for new permanent housing and local government facilities. Coloma added that the DSWD continues to attend to the basic needs of families still occupying temporary shelters. He said Department of Health (DoH) doctors and paramedics are on the lookout against the outbreak of diseases. Coloma said the Labor Department (DOLE) is providing cash-for-work and temporary employment opportunities while TESDA is conducting skills training. “We realize that despite its best efforts, government is unable to adequately respond to all the needs of all the affected families and individuals. We continue to welcome suggestions on how we can improve our response and assistance. We will act on reports of abuse or anomaly in the provision of relief services,” Coloma said. Yolanda slammed into the central Visayas region on November 8 last year with winds of up to 315 kilometres (195 miles) an hour, triggering unprecedented destruction that left four million without homes.
It triggered huge tsunami-like storm surges that swallowed entire villages, killing at least 6,200 people with 2,000 others still missing. Coloma said the hard work of responding to all the humanitarian challenges remained. “We realise that despite its best efforts, government is unable to adequately respond to all the needs of all the affected families and individuals,” Coloma said. “We continue to welcome suggestions on how we can improve our response and assistance,” he said, adding that reports of corruption in aid distribution would be swiftly dealt with. AFP http://www.tribune.net.ph/headlines/un‐cites‐slow‐yolanda‐rehab‐palace‐claims‐roadmap‐ drafted
Comelec asked to decide soon on PCOS machines’ fate Written by PNA Monday, 17 February 2014 00:00 A poll watchdog has urged the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to decide as soon as possible whether it will use the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines in the 2016 national and local elections. Henrietta de Villa, chairman of the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV), said the electoral body needs to decide as early as now on the fate of the machines for the stakeholders to be able to prepare. “PPCRV is ready for any option. Same or change. (Either way), time is the essence which Comelec has to consider,” she said in an interview. De Villa added major adjustments will be made should the Comelec decide to utilize a new Automated Election System (AES) in the 2016 elections. “If there shall be change in machines, then the Comelec has to decide before the end of March so it can be factored into the 2015 budget,” the PPCRV head said. She noted that having an early decision will also be an advantage for the voters’ education since the electorate will have more time to be familiar with a new system. De Villa issued the statement after the Comelec stated that it is considering the possibility of replacing the PCOS machines. The more than 80,000 PCOS machines were used in the 2010 presidential and 2013 midterm polls. The PPCRV was the accredited citizens’ arm in the first automated elections in 2010 and was also among the several Comelec-registered poll watchdogs in the 2013 polls. She, however, said the present system can still be subjected to upgrading of the system. “The PCOS machines need due diligence check-up since they can be utilized still… But additional safeguards can be installed or operationalized in PCOS to address legitimate additional safeguards,” De Villa added. She noted that since the more than 52 million Filipino voters are already familiar with the PCOS machines, the voters’ education would be minimal. At present, the poll body is still awaiting for the recommendation of the Comelec Advisory Council (CAC) on whether to use the PCOS machines for the 2016 presidential polls. The government currently has 80,000 PCOS machines which were already used in the 2010 and 2013 elections. Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes has earlier raised the possibility of purchasing 6,100 units more complete with optical mark reader (OMR) and flash cards. He also said the poll body is considering other companies apart from the Smartmatic-Total Information Management to provide the PCOS machines for the 2016 presidential elections. http://www.tribune.net.ph/headlines/comelec‐asked‐to‐decide‐soon‐on‐pcos‐machines‐fate
Expanded no‐build zone in typhoon‐hit areas will wipe out subsistence fisherfolk — group Written by Benjamin B. Pulta Monday, 17 February 2014 00:00
A group of subsistence fishermen is raising the alarm over prospects that the government’s nobuild zone policy currently carried out in supertyphoon “Yolanda”-ravaged areas in Tacloban City and the rest of Eastern Visayas could extend to 200 meters away from the shoreline, and not 40 meters away from the coastline as earlier announced by the government. In a statement, the Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) said the measure could wipe out entire communities of subsistence fishermen in the areas. The expanded coverage of the build zone, the group said, was announced by Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) director Leo Jasereno in a dialog last week The dialog last week was conducted with representatives of Pamalakaya from Tacloban City and Eastern Visayas, Palawan, Cavite, Bicol region, Southern Tagalog region and Northern Mindanao. The MGB official confirmed the no-build zone policy, which bans small fishermen from constructing homes would pave way for rehabilitation projects, including but not limited to ecotourism. “From 40 meters away to 200 meters away from the shoreline is like telling the small fishermen and the coastal villagers that it is your end and this is a collectively death warrant for all of you,” said Pamalakaya vice chairman Salvador France. The Pamalakaya leader also said that during the dialog with Jasareno at the main office of the DENR last week, the MGB official confirmed that the no-build zone policy is not limited to Tacloban City and Eastern Visayas. France said the no-build zone policy that would cover 40 meters up to 200 meters away from the coastline would also be implemented in other areas affected by Yolanda last year, the habagat in 2013 and typhoon “Ondoy” in 2009. Survivors of last year’s supertyphoon Yolanda and their supporters from Palawan, Manila Bay and Laguna Lake dumped sacks of water lilies and few pieces of knife fish at the gate of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in Quezon City to protest the nobuild zone policy currently imposed by the environmental agency in Tacloban City and across Eastern Visayas. Some 80 protesters affiliated with Pamalakaya, Anakpawis partylist and the Tacloban City-based People Surge took turns in assailing President Aquino and DENR Secretary Ramon Paje for implementing the no-build zone policy, which they dismissed as a recipe for social injustice and a menu for wholesale displacement of people. The rally against the no-build zone policy was led by Pamalakaya leaders France and Peter Gonzales, Anakpawis partylist Rep. Fernando Hicap, Alyansa ng Magdaragat sa Bacoor, Cavite coordinator Myrna Candinato, Pamalakaya-Southern Tagalog secretary general Isabelo Alicaya
and local leaders of People Surge alliance of survivors of typhoon Yolanda presented a demand letter to Secretary Paje, asking the agency to cease and desist from implementing the controversial no-build zone policy. In their three-page demand letter to Paje, the organizers of the protest argued that the office of DENR is legally bound and morally obliged to obey the people’s appeal for the environment office to refrain from carrying out the no-build, no-dwell zone policy. Pamalakaya and the rest of the groups insisted that DENR should dismantle all no-build zone markers it had installed since last year and allow fishermen and other coastal villagers to return to their fishing areas and communities. “Mr. Secretary, we hope to see these markers of no-build zone, no-dwell zone removed within a week upon the receipt of this demand letter, or else, more and more protests will greet Malacañang and the office of DENR in case they failed to do so,” the groups said in their petition to Paje. Pamalakaya, Anakpawis partylist and the multisectoral group People Surge said the no-build zone policy currently imposed by DENR covers some 35.88 kilometers from Palo to Tacloban City. “The markers were installed by the Department of Public Works and Highways upon the request of environment agency. While this policy is religiously imposed to the detriment of small fishermen and other affected sectors, big business groups are coming in as if the issues and concerns arising from the rehabilitation of Eastern Visayas are all about business and profits,” they said. http://www.tribune.net.ph/nation/expanded‐no‐build‐zone‐in‐typhoon‐hit‐areas‐will‐wipe‐ out‐subsistence‐fisherfolk‐group
Warm welcome awaits Olympian Michael Martinez — Palace Written by PNA Monday, 17 February 2014 00:00
A warm welcome awaits Michael Christian Martinez for representing the Philippines at the Sochi Winter Olympics, Malacañang said Sunday. Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio “Sonny” Coloma Jr. said Martinez, who competed in figure skating, did the country proud with his performance. “Ang tinitiyak ko lang po ay kinikilala natin ang mahusay na performance ni Michael Martinez, at nakikiisa tayo sa ating mga kababayan, at tiyak na makatatanggap siya ng mainit na welcome at pagkilala sa kanyang pagbabalik (We acknowledge his fine performance and are one with the Filipino people in making sure he will get a warm welcome upon his return),” Coloma said on state-run dzRB Radyo ng Bayan. While he failed to advance to the next rounds, Martinez awed audiences — including Filipinos who watched the televised coverage — with his performance in figure skating. Many were particularly impressed that Martinez did well in an event where Filipinos are not expected to excel as the Philippines is a tropical country. In the meantime, Coloma urged the private sector to help support Philippine athletes since the government lacks resources to do so by itself. He said this is why President Aquino had instructed that support be prioritized for events where Filipino athletes have a good chance of winning. “Ang problema lang naman po kasi ay ‘yung paglalaan ng kaukulang pananalapi o resources dahil limitado po talaga ang resources ng pamahalaan dahil batid naman po natin ang prayoridad ay sa pagbabawas ng kahirapan, pagbibigay ng pagkalinga sa mga mahihirap at mga nangangailangang sektor (The problem is that the government has limited resources, and is prioritizing the use of such resources for poverty alleviation),” he said. “Doon naman sa mga ibang larangan ay pwede rin namang himukin ang private sector na patuloy na sumuporta dito. So tulong-tulong lang po ang nakikita nating solusyon. Kung pagtutulungan po ng sambayanan, magbibigay tayo ng suporta sa mga mahuhusay na atleta katulad ni Michael Martinez at iba pa, ay sigurado naman pong makakamit natin ‘yung mga layunin natin sa larangang ‘yan (We can ask the private sector for help. The only solution we see is cooperation between government and the private sector to support excellent athletes like Martinez),” he added. http://www.tribune.net.ph/nation/warm‐welcome‐awaits‐olympian‐michael‐martinez‐ palace
Tobacco farmers want more Sin Tax Law‐funded programs Written by Tribune Monday, 17 February 2014 00:00
By Alvin Murcia Tobacco farmers are pushing the construction of more farm-to-market roads, irrigation, production subsidy and more livelihood programs using the Sin Tax Law. This is the position of the members of the National Federation of Tobacco Farmers’ Associations and Cooperatives (NAFTAC) to the National Tobacco Administration (NTA). The farmers said there is a great need to uplift their conditions and the approval of the Sin Tax Law in December 2012 might be the answer to their long-time dream of having a better living condition using the taxes collected from cigarettes. The increase in excise taxes was triggered by the enactment in December 2012 of Republic Act 10351, or the Sin Tax Law, which levies higher taxes on cigarettes and liquor. The law took effect in January 2013. Under the law, a portion of revenue collected will be allocated to projects that will benefit tobacco farmers and workers nationwide in addition to the tobacco farmers’ livelihood support under RA 7171 and RA 8240. In their position paper, NAFTAC stated their demands and expressed the belief that they will finally given the proper treatment given the big amount of money collected from the so-called taxes. The position of the farmers was positively taken by the NTA as it also wanted the farmers’ inputs be used in the preparation of a master plan for the development of the industry. According to NTA Administrator Edgardo Zaragoza, the farmers position will not be taken for granted and assured them that excise taxes from cigarettes will directly benefit tobacco farmers. In view of this, the NTA will start to conduct dialogs with local executives of tobacco-growing provinces and municipalities to discuss on the implementation of the new Sin Tax Law. For a start, the agency has invited 87 mayors and 12 governors of areas that produce Burley and native tobacco on Feb. 20 in Rosales, Pangasinan. Some 72 mayors and four governors from Virginia tobacco-growing areas, mostly in Ilocos and Abra, are expected to attend the dialog on Feb. 22 in Candon City. The twin events are last of the series of dialogs conducted by the agency with tobacco industry stakeholders to gather input for the revision of the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) on the use of the increased excise taxes imposed on cigarettes. The NTA is working with the Department of Finance and the Department of Budget and Management to formulate guidelines for the identification or determination of projects by the local government units that will be funded from the proceeds under the said law. Zaragoza said he hopes to come up with a range of projects from which executive officials of beneficiary local government units can choose.
Under the law, a province and a congressional district each get a 30-percent share, while a town gets 40 percent. The benefits of projects which the local executives would choose will go directly to the farmers. “We are assured that these funds will be used for the development or progress of a community,” he added. Zaragoza also met with 14 cigarette manufacturers and heads of buyer firms, representing the private sector, in a consultative meeting at the NTA office in Quezon City last Feb. 11. Discussed during the meeting were strategies and interventions that need to be adopted with the implementation of the sin tax law. Manufacturers and traders are expecting an increase of share of local leaf production in domestic manufacturing and the increase in exports of leaf and tobacco products. The manufacturers expressed support to the administrator as they emphasized the need to provide assistance to farmers to produce quality leaves. http://www.tribune.net.ph/nation/tobacco‐farmers‐want‐more‐sin‐tax‐law‐funded‐ programs
‘Flawed government policy, not smuggling, behind rice crisis’ Written by Tribune Monday, 17 February 2014 00:00 Two former heads of the National Food Authority (NFA) yesterday asserted flawed government policy, not smuggling, poses the biggest threat to the nation’s rice supply. Anthony Abad underscored that smuggling was just one of the many symptoms of a flawed system of rice regulation while Lito Banayo warned that government’s continued monopoly of rice importation could cause NFA’s debt to balloon to as much as P190 billion. “Rice smuggling occurs because there is an unmet demand of a hungry population. Smuggling and the illicit importation of rice simply reflect a deficit in supply,” said Abad, a lawyer and international trade expert. At the Senate hearings, so-called “illegal importations” were attributed to the absence of a definitive policy on the World Trade Organization (WTO)-granted “special privilege” of quantitative restrictions (QR) on the importation of rice that had expired in June 2012. During the hearings, the Department of Agriculture (DA) maintained that despite its expiration, importation quotas on rice will remain in place until 2017, even as the Philippines has yet to succeed in negotiating an extension with fellow WTO member countries. Abad believes otherwise, saying: “When you have an agreement that is time-bound, the “special treatment clause” expires upon the deadline. The Philippines is the only country left that maintains a QR.” The DA and attached agency NFA have been criticized by some sectors for supposedly using QR and the issuance of import permits to maintain a “monopoly” over rice trade. Abad was NFA administrator from 2000 to 2002. He agreed the “outdated QR system and government rice monopoly only lead to high prices, inefficiency, corruption and smuggling. In a television interview, Banayo, for his part, expressed astonishment at how the agency has come to monopolize rice trade over the last year. “In the third year of this Aquino administration, 2013, I was surprised to read in the papers that it was only the NFA doing the importing, without participation from the private sector,” he said in the vernacular. Under the 2010 Food Staples Self-sufficiency Program (FSSP), the country’s rice selfsufficiency roadmap, importation should primarily be the role of the private sector. “The private sector should be the one to import. The NFA should, little by little, remove itself from rice importation and concentrate on local procurement which we followed for two years,” Banayo, who was administrator during the first two years of the Aquino presidency, described the agency’s thrust under his watch. He also warned that the NFA’s continued monopoly over rice importation, through governmentto-government transactions, is a virtual “white elephant,” costing the country billions of pesos in public funds. “We are going to be deep in debt. I think, at the rate it’s going, mostly from government-to-
government imports, we will reach P190 billion by the time P-Noy (President Aquino’s term) ends,” Banayo said. Amid increasing prices, and if it were to be true to its mandate, Banayo reminded the NFA to concentrate on two things: “One, to make sure there is available rice in the market (and) two, to make it affordable.” According to the Bureau of Agricultural Statistics, as of February 4, well-milled rice retails for P39.94 per kilogram, 13.33 percent higher than last year. Regular milled rice retails for P36.73 per kilogram, 14.64 percent higher than the previous year. The 2010 FSSP recommends “to allow the expiration of QR by 2012.” http://www.tribune.net.ph/metro‐section/flawed‐government‐policy‐not‐smuggling‐behind‐ rice‐crisis
Solon says law allows use of marijuana only for research Written by Gerry Baldo Monday, 17 February 2014 00:00 Amid recent moves to legalize the use of marijuana, the chairman of the House committee on dangerous drugs yesterday clarified that the existing law only allows the use of marijuana for research and not for medical use. Iligan City Rep. Vicente Belmonte, the panel chairman, explained that Section 16 of Republic Act (RA) 9156 or the Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002 does not permit the sale and use of marijuana for medicinal purposes. “Under Section 16 of RA 9156, medical marijuana should undergo clinical studies first. But presently marijuana is classified as dangerous drugs,” Belmonte said in response to the statement of Isabela Rep. Rodolfo Albano III that the existing law allows marijuana for medical use. Albano promised he would file a bill that would legalize marijuana for medical use. A move similar to some states in the United States. “I don’t think we need a law to legalize medical marijuana; apparently we only need an IRR. But I will still proceed with my plan to file a bill to legalize marijuana in order to make the law more stringent,” Albano said. Albano stressed the Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB) should just draw up the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of RA 9156 on the use of marijuana for medication. But Belmonte said the law was very clear that it bans the use of marijuana even for medicinal purposes. “In effect, the DDB allows medical research and experiments of marijuana, but not its usage for medicinal purposes. Wala pang law on that,” Belmonte said. During the hearing last week, Health Undersecretary Nemesio Gako recommended further scientific study on the merits of a proposal to legalize the sale and use of marijuana for medicinal purposes, stressing it should be the last option if Congress decides to strictly regulate its use. Gako warned that legalizing marijuana could be a prelude to legalizing other addictive drugs. Albano’s move is being supported by Chuck Mananzala and Dra. Donabelle Cunanan, advocates of marijuana for medicinal purposes. The duo has asked Congress to consider the measure in deference to patients who will benefit from it. http://www.tribune.net.ph/metro‐section/solon‐says‐law‐allows‐use‐of‐marijuana‐only‐for‐ research
Makati City to start accepting applicants for summer youth program today Written by Tribune Monday, 17 February 2014 00:00
The city government of Makati will be accepting and screening applicants for its summer youth program dubbed Sports, Music, Arts and Recreational Training (SMART) starting today, February 17, at the Office of Councilor Ferdinand Eusebio, 18th Floor of Makati City Hall. Mayor Jejomar Erwin Binay said the program is free of charge and aims to promote a healthy lifestyle among young residents and develop their potential in a creative and innovative manner. “This annual program of the city offers a great way for young citizens of Makati to spend their school summer break. Learning new skills and making new friends will help make our kids healthy not only physically but also emotionally and socially,” Binay said. Registration is on a “first-come-first- served” basis and will continue until all slots have been filled up. The orientation date and venue will be announced later. The Eusebio’s office will be open for registration, screening and interview of SMART applicants from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Mondays to Fridays. The events offered under the program are as follows: aikido for 12 to 21 years old; arnis for nine to 15 years old; badminton for aged eight to 16; basketball clinic for nine to 15 years old; karate for ages 10 to 15; muay thai for ages 12 to 21; table tennis for ages eight to 12, and taekwondo for seven to 15 years old. Other events are: academic tutorial for grades 2 to 6; classical ballet for six to 13 years old; cooking and baking for ages eight to 15; dance clinic for ages 12 to 21; drama/acting workshop for seven to 12 years; drawing and painting for ages six to 15; guitar lesson for ages nine to 18; personality development for 12 to 21 years old; swimming for seven to 12 years old; voice lesson for seven to 15 years old, and volleyball for kids aged eight to 12 years. The Makati SMART summer program is open to residents who are required to present the following: duly accomplished registration and waiver form, certified true copy and photocopy of Birth or Baptismal Certificate of the child; original and photocopy of Voter’s ID or Comelec Certificate of parent or legal guardian; and two pieces 1x1 latest picture of the child. For more information on the SMART program, you may call the numbers 870-1152 or 899-8739 or visit the website www.jesb @makati.gov.ph or e-mail email@example.com. http://www.tribune.net.ph/metro-section/makati-city-to-start-accepting-applicants-for-summeryouth-program-today
GSP renewal needed to raise RP exports to US, group says Written by Ed Velasco Monday, 17 February 2014 00:00 Philippine entrepreneurs can increasingly use duty-free access benefits offered by the United States (US) once it renews the Generalized System of Preference (GSP) program. Latest data released by the 22-member Alliance of GSP countries to various agencies and reporters indicated that the Philippine GSP utilization rate only grew 5.1 percent in January to November 2013. The US imported from the country $565.8 million worth of GSP eligible products during the nine-month period from $538.4 million during the same period in 2012. The Philippines ranked 12th among the 22 US USP beneficiary-countries during the period. The country was outpaced by Uruguay, Algeria, Moldova, Ecuador, Macedonia, Pakistan, Brazil, Paraguay, Egypt, Thailand and Tunisia which enjoyed an increase of 7.1 percent to 88.7 percent in exports. The Philippine top exports to the US with GSP privileges included electrical apparatus for protecting electrical circuits with sales surging a whopping 244.8 percent in January to November last year. This was followed by non-alcoholic beverages excluding fruits or vegetable juices with shipments increasing 100.5 percent, and spectacle lenses of materials other than glass, unmounted, that rose 55.5 percent. The GSP is an instrument of the US foreign policy and economic cooperation that permits certain goods from about 130 developing countries to enter the US market duty-free. Eligible for duty-free GSP treatment are most manufactured items and inputs, certain agricultural, fishery and industrial products such as metals, chemicals and derivatives. Meanwhile, the Alliance of GSP countries are urging the US Congress to restore the GSP trade benefits through legislation as soon as possible. The GSP program expired on Jul. 31, 2013. “During the three months that GSP has not been in effect, imports from developing countries have dropped overall by 5.4 percent. Alliance countries’ small and medium-sized businesses are losing hard-won US market niches to non-GSP low-cost producers,” the alliance said. http://www.tribune.net.ph/business/gsp‐renewal‐needed‐to‐raise‐rp‐exports‐to‐us‐group‐ says
DBP net income expanded 27.85% to P5.28B in ’13 Written by Tribune Monday, 17 February 2014 00:00
State-owned Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) registered a net income of P5.28 billion last year, from P4.13-billion in 2012, or a 27.85 percent growth rate buoyed by significant increases in deposits, loans to borrowers and investments. DBP’s deposit levels improved from P176.92-billion in 2012 to P251.08-billion last year, or a growth of 41.92 percent. Loans to borrowers increased by seven percent from P118.93-billion in 2012 to P127.37-billion. Investments jumped from P97.74-billion in 2012 to P145.75-billion in 2013. Total assets increased to P436.1-billion from P361.08-billion in 2012. Capital adequacy ratio based on Basel 2 stood at 24.33 percent as of December 2013. “2013 was a great year, but challenges lie ahead such as the ever increasing industry competition and stricter capital regulations,” said DBP president and chief executive officer Gil Buenaventura. He emphasized that the bank has geared up to support the inclusive growth strategy of the national government as stated in the Philippine Development Plan. DBP at present finances projects under the Public Private Partnership (PPP) program of national government agencies. It now plans to expand its PPP financing program to include projects of local government units. DBP continues to provide financing to projects in the priority areas of infrastructure and logistics, social services, protection of the environment, micro small and medium enterprises. This year, DBP will increase its number of branches to 102 and expand the number of its ATMs in key locations nationwide. It also plans to offer more customer-oriented products and services and increase business lines to fulfill its SME mandate. Fitch Ratings has affirmed DBP’s ratings at BB+ based on stable deposit basis, satisfactory liquidity, high core capitalization, and rising loan reserves. Standard and Poor’s (S&P) has also upgraded DBP’s long-term issuer credit ratings to BBBfrom BB+, with stable outlook; and the bank’s short-term issuer credit rating to A-3 from B. S&P cited DBP’s critical public policy role in supporting the economic and social development of the Philippines and the bank’s integral link to the government. “The DBP continues to be well-capitalized and will continue to focus on the bank’s natural government ecosystem — the water districts, electric cooperatives, and local government units. As we support the priorities of government, DBP will also tap public-private partnership projects and other large infrastructure projects for their financing needs,” Buenaventura said. http://www.tribune.net.ph/business/dbp‐net‐income‐expanded‐27‐85‐to‐p5‐28b‐in‐13
HIGANTENG TRAPIK, UMPISA NA! Nina Bernard Taguinod at Eralyn Prado
Sisimulan na ngayong araw na ito ang konstruksyon ng Metro Manila Skyway 3 kaya humingi kahapon ng pasensya ang Malacañang dahil sa inaasahang higanteng pagsikip ng trapiko. “Nananawagan tayo sa mga mamamayan na makiisa sa mga isasagawang proyektong pangimprastraktura tulad ng Skyway 3 na mag-uumpisa bukas (Lunes),” pahayag ni Presidential Communication Operation Office (PCOO) Secretary Herminio ‘Sonny’ Coloma Jr. Inaasahan umano na magdudulot ng masikip na trapiko ang nasabing proyekto na magdudugtong sa South Luzon Expressway (SLEX) at North Luzon Expressway (NLEX) subalit pansamantala lamang ito. “We call on our people to share in the burden of sacrifice and bear with short-term inconvenience so we can build better roads that will ensure faster travel and more productive living in our highly congested National Capital Region,” ani Coloma. Kabilang sa inaasahang apektado ng mega-trapik ay ang kahabaan ng Roxas Blvd., Osmeña Highway, Quirino Ave. at Macapagal Ave. Target ng gobyerno na matapos ang proyektong ito sa 2017 kaya’t pinayuhan nito ang publiko at ang mga motorista na makipag-ugnayan sa Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) para magabayan sa alternatibong ruta.Samantala, inamin kahapon ng MMDA na dumadagdag din sa masikip nang daloy ng trapiko ang ginagawang ‘weekend sale’ ng malalaking malls sa Kalakhang Maynila. “Halos weekly ganitong may ginagawa ‘yung malalaking mall, talaga malaking problema namin ‘yan,” ayon ay MMDA Traffic Discipline Office Chief Francisco Manalo.
City hospitals sa Maynila ‘di na libre (Juliet de Loza‐Cudia)
Simula sa Pebrero 17, hindi na libre ang lahat ng serbisyo sa anim na pampublikong ospital na pinatatakbo ng lokal na pamahalaan ng Maynila, maliban sa Ospital ng Tondo na sa Marso 3 pa magsisimulang maningil. Ito ang itinimbre kahapon sa Abante ng ilang hospital insider kung saan ang pagbabago ay bunga ng inaprubahang Manila Ordinance 8331 ng City Council na pinamumunuan ni Vice Mayor Isko Moreno. Ang naturang ordinansa ay may titulong ‘An Ordinance Enacting the 2013 Omnibus Revenue Code of the City of Manila’ na isa umanong hakbang ng administrasyong Estrada na inisponsoran ni 5th District Councilor Mon Yupangco.
PNoy ‘quiet’ sa same sex marriage (Bernard Taguinod)
Walang plano ang administrasyon ni Pangulong Benigno ‘Noynoy’ Aquino III na itulak ang same sex marriage sa Pilipinas. Ginawa ni Presidential Communication Operation Office (PCOO) Secretary Herminio ‘Sonny’ Coloma Jr., ang nasabing pahayag dahil parami nang parami ang mga Filipino na pareho ang kasarian ang nagpapakasal sa Amerika. Isang halimbawa na dito ang nakatakdang pagpapakasal umano ni Aiza Seguerra sa kanyang nobyang si Liza Diño sa Amerika dahil hindi pinapayagan ng batas sa Pilipinas ang same sex marriage. “Wala pong stand ang palasyo hinggil diyan dahil hindi pa naman po napapanahong talakayin ‘yan,” pahayag ni Coloma. Maliban dito, kailangan aniyang magpasa ng batas ang dalawang kapulungan ng Kongreso para sa bagay na ito subalit ayaw pumosisyon ang Aquino administration sa nasabing usapin.
Meralco umiiwas sa P30.2B refund kahit kumita nang P68B sa 6 na taon (Boyet Jadulco)
Hiniling ng isang mambabatas sa Manila Electric Company (Meralco) na bawasan ang kasibaan sa pera matapos na tumabo sila ng higit sa P68 bilyong kita sa nakalipas na anim na taon. Ayon kay House deputy minority leader Arnel Ty, tubong-lugaw na ang Meralco sa kanilang negosyo subalit ayaw pa ring paawat sa pagpapairal ng mataas na presyo ng kuryente sa 5.2 milyong residential, commercial at industrial customers sa Metro Manila at kalapit lalawigan. Sa nakuhang datos ng kongresista sa Philippine Stock Exchange (PSE), namahagi ng P40 bilyong cash dividends ang Meralco sa kanilang shareholders mula 2009 hanggang 2013. Ito ay resulta ng net profits nilang P2.8 bilyon noong 2008; P6.005 bilyon noong 2009; P9.685 bilyon noong 2010; P13.227 bilyon noong 2011 at P17.016 bilyon noong 2012. Inaasahan naman nilang ire-report ang net profit na P19.409 bilyon para sa taong 2013, base sa naging projection ng online stockbroker COL Financial Group Inc. Habang tumataba umano ang bulsa ng mga shareholder ng Meralco, todo-iwas naman sila sa pagbabayad ng P30.2 bilyong refund sa maliliit na konsumer. Ang refund ay bunsod ng overcharges ng Meralco matapos na ipasa sa mga konsumer ang kanilang corporate income taxes.
Sobrang presyo ng LPG, yari sa palasyo (Bernard Taguinod)
Tiniyak kahapon ng Malacañang na hindi papayagan ng mga ito na tumaas nang husto ang presyo ng cooking gas dahil sa pagsasara umano ng liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) depot ng Shell sa Batangas at ang isa pang independent player station sa Quezon. Ayon kay Presidential Communication Operation Office (PCOO) Secretary Herminio ‘Sonny’ Coloma Jr., hindi basta-basta makakapagtaas ng presyo ang mga LPG industry players dahil sa umiiral na formula sa presyo ng cooking gas. Ginawa ng kalihim ang pahayag dahil sa pangamba ng ilang mambabatas sa Kamara na posibleng tumaas ng P5 kada kilo ng cooking gas kapag hindi naresolbahan ang pagsasara ng LGP depot ng Shell sa Batangas.
Iskolar scam ng NCIP Rich kids pinondohan, pinag‐aral (Boyet Jadulco) Imbes na gamitin ang pondo para sa pagaaral ng mahihirap na estudyante, ginamit ng National Commission on Indigenous People (NCIP) ang kanilang pondo sa pag-aaral ng mga ‘rich kids’, ayon sa natuklasan ng Commission on Audit (COA). Sa pagbulatlat ng mga auditor sa Educational Assistance Program (EAP) ng NCIP, nadiskubre nila ang 23 estudyante na inilista bilang “beneficiaries” subalit nag-aaral sa mga private school na ang tuition fees ay pumapalo sa P71,000 kada semestre. Ayon sa COA, malinaw na nilabag ng NCIP ang kanilang minimum requirements sa scholarship program para sa indigenous cultural community, kung saan ang suweldo ng isang pamilya ay hindi dapat lalagpas sa P100,000 kada taon. Bukod sa sinuportahang mga ‘rich kids’, natuklasan din ng COA ang ghost scholars ng NCIP. Mayroong 35 grantees ang NCIP sa kanilang Special Education Assistance Program (SEAP) pero apat lang sa kanila ang aktuwal na kumubra ng one-time cash grant na P22,500 per semester kung kaya’t duda ang auditors na peke ang iba.
MERALCO TAKEOVER BUCKED Published : Monday, February 17, 2014 00:00 Written by : Efren Montano
A government takeover of the Manila Electric Company (Meralco) is premature and needs thorough study and justification, Malacañang said yesterday. Presidential Communications Secretary Sonny Coloma Jr. made the remark in reaction to the call of some solons at the House of Representatives for the government to take back Meralco’s franchise and pave the way for its takeover by the government. ”Kailangan po ng masusing pag-aaral tungkol diyan dahil ‘yan po ay mag-i-involve ng malaking resources. Kailangan po ng masusing pag-aaral at hinintayin po natin, kung meron mang kongkretong pag-aaral, at pagbibigay ng katarungan o justification diyan sa panukalang ‘yan. Kabataan Partylist Rep. Terry Ridon, member of the House committees on legislative franchises and energy, earlier pushed for the government to take over power generating firms to ensure affordable power rates. “If Meralco and the power generators cannot deliver affordable power rates to the public, all power utilities should now be taken over by the state,” Ridon said. The Supreme Court has issued a Temporary Restraining Order on the rate hike even as Meralco warned of rotational blackouts if it can no longer pay for generation and transmission charges. But Ridon said: “Meralco should thus be circumspect in delivering public statements which seem to blackmail the public to simply accept the reality of very high power rates.” He said he may file a bill revoking Meralco’s legislative franchise “for its failure to provide the public the least cost of electricity.” In its statement before the SC, Meralco said “The transmission company may stop transmitting if
Meralco was unable to pay for the transmission charges. The entire power industry may come to a screeching halt.” The rotational brownouts will have “dire consequences [on] the economy and security,” it added. Should blackouts occur in areas serviced by Meralco, Ridon said a national emergency may be declared “justifying the take over of all power utilities, from generation to transmission and distribution.” Also, he said the government should also take over generation plants as it has the “greatest effect on power rates.” “Clearly, these utilities are businesses imbued with great public interest,” he added. Ridon said under the constitution, during national emergency – “like maybe blackouts due to refusal to provide services” – government can take over public utilities. On the other hand, Energy Regulatory Commission executive director Francis Saturnino Juan recalled the time when power utilities were still being controlled by the government. “I cannot speak for the ERC, but in the ’90s, nagkaroon ng power crisis,” he said when asked for a reaction on Ridon’s suggestion. Several House leaders however rejected the proposal for government to take over the Manila Electric Co. (Meralco). Cavite Rep. Elpidio Barzaga Jr. and Marikina City Rep. Miro Quimbo said Ridon should just wait for the SC ruling which ordered a 60-day temporary restraining order (TRO) on Meralco’s rate adjustments. “Let’s wait for the SC ruling,” Barzaga, chairman of the House Committee on Games and Amusement, said. Quimbo, who chairs the House Committee on Ways and Means, said Ridon should be cautious in making such proposals because they may affect the investors’ confidence in the country. “It is ill advised at this point in time. It will spook investors whose confidence we’ve regained recently through the hard work of the current administration over the last three years,” Quimbo said. “A takeover, though allowed by the Constitution, is something that can be resorted to only under exceptionally extreme situations. It’s going to be a horror show for all potential investors if they witness government coming into the private sector. For certain, we will lose our high credit rating,” Quimbo added. But Gabriela party-list Rep. Luzviminda Ilagan backed Ridon, saying Meralco should not threaten the people because the government can take over their operations under the Constitution. http://www.journal.com.ph/index.php/news/headlines/67292-meralco-takeoverbucked
PLM prexy in trouble for graft, 'ineligibility' Published : Monday, February 17, 2014 00:00 Written by : Paul M. Gutierrez CLOSE political supporters of former President and now Manila Mayor Joseph “Erap” Estrada have come out to complain against former Department of Justice (DOJ) Sec. Artemio G. Tuquero, who has been appointed president of Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila (PLM). People’s Tonight learned that last February 12, Atty. Reynaldo Bagatsing wrote Estrada a fourpage, strongly-worded letter where he bewailed the appointment of Toquero and the latter’s alleged abuses in the running of the PLM’s affairs thru several of his ‘questionable’ appointments in its top echelon. Bagatsing is the son of former mayor Ramon Bagatsing and their family is one of Estrada’s most ardent supporters in Manila. His letter against Tuquero was coursed thru Estrada’s secretary, Atty. Edward Serapio. Bagatsing said he is “willing to suffer” Estrada’s wrath “for as long as I can save you and your administration from these scalawags.” Bagatsing averred that Tuquero’s appointment may have been “tainted with deceit” because he did not inform Estrada that his previous appointments as president of the University of Manila “was twice invalidated by the Civil Service Commission” during the administration of Mayor Alfredo Lim due to his advance age. Because of these adverse rulings, other sources noted that Lim promptly recalled the appointment of Tuquero, 81, despite the latter’s erstwhile qualifications -- former Dean, College of Law at the Manuel L. Quezon University; former Dean, College of Law, University of the East; and former Associate Justice, Court of Appeals (CA). Aside from his advance years, sources noted that Toquero has no doctorate degree, which, they noted, is a requirement for his position as PLM president. Bagatsing also listed seven other specific acts of Tuquero that are all allegedly in violation of the law. This includes Tuquero’s appointment of Dr. Elena Cernias as Dean, College of Management and Entrepreneurship (CME) of the PLM, although she has been “perpetually disqualified” from holding public office by the CSC allegedly for “grave misconduct, serious dishonesty and gross
neglect of duties” and was dismissed by Lim from her post as associate professor at the University of Manila last April 12, 2013. Aside from Cernias, Bagatsing also questioned Tuquero’s appointment of Carlos to three separate positions in the PLM -- OIC, Legal Counsel; OIC, University Secretary; and OIC Chairperson of the Review and Publications Committee. Also on February 12, Pablo Casimina, former city administrator of Caloocan, filed a complaint before the Ombudsman against Tuquero and Carlos for violation of RA 9485 (Anti-Red Tape Act) and RA 6713 (Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials) docketed under IC-OC-14-0165. Casimina is another Estrada’s closest supporter since he was ousted in 2001 and worked hard to strengthen Estrada’s Partido ng Masang Pilipino (PMP) in the National Capital Region and nearby provinces. Like Bagatsing, Casimina worked hard in the 2013 midterm polls to help ensure Estrada’s victory in the Manila mayoralty race. Casimina sued Tuquero and Carlos for refusing to pay MY EMR Solutions for the construction and completion of the school’s “integrated systems for communication network” worth P17,922,543.97, where he is a “business consultant.” Casimina noted that since the contract between the PLM and MY EMR Solutions was signed in 2009 and with the project about 81 percent completed, the company is yet to be paid “despite repeated promises” by the school’s officials. The non-payment includes the 15 percent ‘mobilization fee’ due to the company equivalent to P2.7 million and which it decided to shoulder in order to jumpstart the project. “Worst, Atty. Carlos, after promising several times to pay our bills, demanded sometime in December 2013 for a 10 percent commission for him and his boss as condition for payment of our bills,” Casimina added. Based on the context and tenor of the complaint, the ‘boss’ referred to by Carlos with whom he is allegedly to share the commission is none other than Toquero. http://www.journal.com.ph/index.php/news/top-stories/67305-plm-prexy-introuble-for-graft-ineligibility
Marijuana law clarified Published : Monday, February 17, 2014 00:00 Written by : Ryan Ponce Pacpaco THE chairman of the House Committee on Dangerous Drugs clarified yesterday that existing law only allows medical research for marijuana and not medicinal use. In an interview, Iligan City Rep. Vicente Belmonte, the panel chairman, explained that Section 16 of Republic Act (RA) No. 9156 or the Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002 does not permit the sale and use of marijuana for medicinal purposes. “Under Sec. 16 of RA No. 9156, medical marijuana should undergo clinical studies first. But presently marijuana is classified as dangerous drugs,” Belmonte said in response to the statement of Isabela Rep. Rodolfo Albano III, who vows to file a bill calling for the legalization of marijuana for medicinal purposes next month, that the existing law apparently allows marijuana for medication. “I don’t think we need a law to legalize medical marijuana; apparently we only need an IRR. But I will still proceed with my plan to file a bill to legalize marijuana in order to make the law more stringent,” Albano said earlier after Belmonte’s committee conducted initial hearing on the controversial proposal Tuesday last week. Albano stressed the Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB) should just draw up the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of RA No. 9156 on the use of marijuana for medication. But Belmonte said the law was very clear that it bans the use of marijuana even for medicinal purposes. “In effect, the DDB allows medical research and experiments of marijuana, but not its usage for medicinal purposes. Wala pang law on that,” Belmonte said. During the hearing last week, Health Undersecretary Nemesio Gako recommended further scientific study on the merits of a proposal to legalize the sale and use of marijuana for medicinal purposes, stressing it should be the last option if Congress decides to strictly regulate its use. Melody Zamudio, representative from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), opposed the proposal, saying marijuana is a banned substance. Gako warned that legalizing marijuana could lead to people later moving on to using other addictive drugs. At the same hearing, Chuck Mananzala and Dra. Donabelle Cunanan, advocates of marijuana for medicinal purposes, asked Congress to consider the controversial measure because many patients suffering from serious illnesses will benefit from it. Marijuana produces chemicals that ease the nausea caused by cancer chemotherapy, help victims of trauma and stimulate appetite in severe weight loss caused by AIDS, prompting other countries to approve its use for medicinal purposes. Recently, the US state of Colorado legalized the use of marijuana effective last January 1. http://www.journal.com.ph/index.php/news/top-stories/67294-marijuana-lawclarified
Simula ngayon, hindi na libre ang serbisyo sa ilang Manila hospitals Published : Monday, February 17, 2014 00:00 Written by : Itchie G. Cabayan SIMULA ngayong araw na ito (February 17), hindi na libre ang mga serbisyong dati ay walang bayad sa ilang mga ospital na pinatatakbo ng lungsod ng Maynila.Ito ang napag-alaman muna sa ilang hospital officials na tumangging magpabanggit ng pangalan at nagsabi na ang naturang paniningil ngayon ay bunsod ng pagkakapasa sa Ordinance 8331 ng konseho ng Maynila na pinamumunuan ni Vice Mayor Isko Moreno. Ang naturang ordinansa na pinamagatan, ‘An Ordinance Enacting the 2013 Omnibus Revenue Code of the City of Manila’, ay isang administration measure o batas na itinulak ng administrasyon. Ito ay inihain naman sa konseho ni fifth district Councilor Mon Yupangco.Matatandaan na sa ilalim ng administrasyon ni Mayor Alfredo S. Lim, lahat ng serbisyo sa mga ospital ng lungsod -- isang ospital meron ang bawat isa sa anim na distrito ng Maynila -- pati na doktor at kwarto ay libre, sa ilalim ng polisiya na ang mga natu-rang ospital ay itinayo para magbigay ng libreng serbisyo sa mahihirap na tagalungsod, maging hindi taga-lungsod, na walang kakayanan gumastos para sa pagpapagamot ng kanilang sakit. Ang mga naturang ospital ay ang sumusunod: Gat Andres Bonifacio Memorial Medical Center (GABMMC); Ospital ng Tondo (Oston); Justice Jose Abad Santos General Hospital (JJASGH); Ospital ng Sampaloc (OS); Ospital ng Maynila at Sta. Ana Hospital (SAH). Kaugnay ng desisyon na singilin na ngayon ang mga pasyente, napag-alaman na nagpaskil na din ng mga signages sa ospital. Halimbawa nito ay ang ipinaskil sa JJASGH kung saan nakasaad: “Simula February 17, 2014, ang Omnibus Revenue Code …ay ipinatutupad -- ibig sabihin ay may kaukulang mababang bayad ang mga serbisyo sa JJASGH.” Sa ilalim ng naturang ordinansa, lahat ng pasyente na magtutungo doon ay kailangan munang dumaan sa social worker u-pang ma-‘classify’ at batay doon ay saka pa lang made-desisyunan kung maaring mabigyan ito ng diskwento. Kabilang sa mga serbisyo na sisingilin na ang operasyon o surgery, OB-Gyne, dialysis, X-ray, laboratory, CT scan at professional or doctors’ fees gayundin ang kuwarto o ‘room and board’ pati na mga gamot. Ang presyo naman ng konsultasyon sa emergency room at sa out-patient department ay itinakda sa P200 at P100, ayon sa pagkakasunod.Ang mga presyo naman na itinakda para sa ultra-sound ay mula P300 hanggang P3,000; dialysis, P1,800 per session na may professional fee na P200 per session; physical therapy, P500 per session at parehong halaga para sa professional fee; X-ray, mula P60 pataas na may karagdagang charge na P40 kada karagdagang film; hand X-ray, P270; at CT scan, mula P2,500 hanggang P7,000. Napag-alaman din na ang mga magpapatupad ng paniningil mula ngayon ay JJASGH, GABMMC at SAH. Ang Oston ay magsisimulang maningil sa unang linggo ng Marso. http://www.journal.com.ph/index.php/news/metro/67273-simula-ngayon-hindi-nalibre-ang-serbisyo-sa-ilang-manila-hospitals
NTA consults tobacco farmers on new sin tax law Published : Monday, February 17, 2014 00:00 Written by : Cory Martinez THE National Tobacco Administration will conduct a dialogue with tobacco farmers in northern Luzon to gather input for the revision of the implementing rules and regulations on the use of the increased excise taxes imposed on cigarettes. NTA Administrator Edgardo Zaragoza said the dialogue will be held on Feb. 20 and Feb. 22, in Rosales, Pangasinan and Candon City, respectively. The agency has invited 87 mayors and 12 governors in areas that produce Burley and native tobacco for the Feb. 20 dialogue while some 72 mayors and four governors from Virginia tobacco-growing areas, mostly in Ilocos Provinces and Abra, are expected to attend the second dialogue on Feb. 22. Zaragoza said his office is working with the Department of Finance and the Department of Budget and Management to formulate guidelines for the identification or determination of projects by the local government units that will be funded from the proceeds under the sin tax law. He said the hopes they would come up with a range of projects from which executive officials of beneficiary local government units can choose from. He said that under the law, a province and a congressional district each get a 30-percent share, while a town gets 40 percent. Zaragoza had emphasized that the benefits of projects which the local executives would choose will go directly to the farmers. “We are assured that these funds will be used for the development or progress of a community,” he added. He said the farmers’ inputs would be used in the preparation of a master plan for the development of the industry. Zaragoza said after the consultations, he hoped to come up with a range of projects from which local government officials can choose from. The increase in excise taxes was triggered by the enactment in December 2011 of Republic Act No. 10351, or the sin tax law, which levies higher taxes on cigarettes and liquor. The law took effect in January 2012. http://www.journal.com.ph/index.php/news/provincial/67291-nta-consultstobacco-farmers-on-new-sin-tax-law